The Heroes Among Us: The lift that saved a life

It was at this tree that the quick thinking actions of a Leelanau County deputy saved a man's life.

LEELANAU COUNTY, MI (WPBN/WGTU)--There is a tree at the Empire Beach that probably doesn't get a second look from most visitors. After all, it's often the crashing waves, beautiful beaches, and soaring dunes which lies beyond it that truly catches the eye. But for Leelanau County Sheriff's Lieutenant James Kiessel that lone tree holds a special place in his heart. It's a tree where he may have saved a life.

Standing at the base of the tree on a blustery February morning, Lieutenant Kiessel remembers back to an October evening. "I was out on general patrol when we got a call from Grand Traverse County about a possible suicidal subject out of Sterling Heights who was supposedly in the area", recalls Kiessel. He was patrolling near the Empire beach when he made a discovery. As he explains, " I got out of my patrol car, I saw the vehicle in question. I got out to check the vehicle, as I was walking up to the vehicle I caught something out of the corner of my eye. I realized the subject was hanging from a tree."

Without hesitation, Kiessel says his training as an officer and his instinct as a human being kicked in. He says "I ran over to that location, climbed up on a large rock where he was hanging, and I knew right away he was still alive, I climbed up on the rock, I couldn't reach the knot. I knew if I tried to cut him down that he would fall 4 to 6 feet and possibly on the rock I was standing on." So Kiessel did the only thing he knew could save the man's life. "I jumped down, grabbed him around the knees and I lifted up on him to take the pressure off his neck."

And the deputy held the man, who was barely breathing, up and alive. "I knew rescue was coming so I held on to him and held him up to keep pressure off his neck for 30 or 45 seconds" explains Kiessel. When back up arrived, that's how they found Kiessel and the man, in a lifesaving embrace. With a few extra hands, they were able to do what Kiessel couldn't do alone. He says "I was able to get up and I could cut the rope and get him down safely and provide him with medical attention."

From the time Lieutenant Kiessel arrived on the scene until the moment when the man was safely down was probably only a few minutes. But they were minutes that forever changed both of their lives.

Do you know someone who has gone above and beyond the call of duty? Someone that deserves to be recognized as a Hero Among Us? Please let us know about it. Email Marc Schollett at

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