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Fisherman rescued from Grand Haven channel

Becky Vargo • May 5, 2016 at 10:00 PM

A 53-year-old Coopersville man said he was wet, cold and tired, but otherwise OK after falling into the Grand River near Grand Haven’s north pier Thursday evening.

A friend was able to hold onto the man until emergency personnel arrived and pulled Bob Pelkey from the water.

Pelkey sat in his truck with the heater blowing full blast as he tried to warm up after the incident.

“We had some fish on a stringer,” he said. “They got tangled on the rebar. I leaned over to free the line and fell in.”

Pelkey said he fell near a ladder adjacent to the west end of the fishermen’s parking lot. 

“I grabbed the bar,” he said. “(A friend, Lonnie Newville) tried to help me and I fell over backward.“

Pelkey was dressed in blue jeans and sweatpants, which were soaked and pulling him down. He had to swim back to the ladder, and he said it was all he could do to hold on.

Newville grabbed his friend, but tired quickly and pulled off his belt. Pelkey said Newville wrapped the belt around his wrists and kept the upper half of his body out of the water, but they were both quickly getting tired.

Sgt. Josh Tomes of the Grand Haven Department of Public Safety was the first officer on the scene after the call for help shortly after 8 p.m. He was able to take over from Newville, but was not able to pull Pelkey out of the water on his own.

Coast Guard personnel soon arrived on the scene in a boat and one of them jumped onto the walkway. A firefighter also arrived and the three men were able to pull Pelkey to safety.

Paramedics from North Ottawa Community Hospital checked Pelkey at the scene, but he refused further medical treatment, Tomes said.

Pelkey said he often fished from Grand Haven’s north and south piers, but had never fallen in before.

“It scared the (expletive) out of me,” he said.

Newville said he was glad his friend was OK.

“He’s my ride, too,” Newville said. “I’m not going to let nothing happen to him.”

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