SOUTH HAVEN, Mich. — While everyone was impacted by the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, first responders along the lakeshore still had to save lives as people flocked outside during Michigan's warmer weather.
This past weekend, the South Haven Area Emergency Services department (SHAES) held its annual awards banquet. It was the first time since 2019 that the full department gathered together.
The night's top award went to paid on-call firefighter Matt Dey, who was named SHAES firefighter of the year by his co-workers.
Dey was on the beach in June of 2020, when a pair of kayakers were blown out into Lake Michigan. Dey spotted them, then commandeered a jet ski. He was able to reach the kayakers and hold them in place until the department's rescue boat arrived to bring them to shore.
Later that summer, Dey rescued kayakers who were overwhelmed by the Black River.
Then on August 29, 2020, Dey was on patrol near the South Pier, where a man and woman were swept into the water by high waves. The man was knocked unconscious and would have drowned without Dey jumping in and pulling him to shore.
Dey joined SHAES in 2018, and previously worked for Buchanan's fire department.