Indiana Department of Natural Resources
Law Enforcement Division
Indiana Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division Director Danny East presented Vigo County residents Mike Daley and Ernie Blankenship each with the Civilian Meritorious Service Award. Mr. Daley and Mr. Blankenship were honored for their actions which saved the lives of 3 individuals on Turtle Creek Reservoir in Sullivan County on February 28, 2016.
The awards were presented Thursday, May 19th following a memorial ceremony for fallen Indiana Conservation Officers, conducted in the south atrium of the State Capital Building in Indianapolis.
The following is the nomination letter to Director East from ICO Lt. Kent Hutchins:
Letter of Nomination
Turtle Creek Reservoir, located in Sullivan County is a 1550 acre impoundment owned by Hoosier Energy, Inc. Due to the shallowness of the lake and surrounding terrain features, windy conditions typically create high waves and treacherous boating conditions that have combined to result in several fatalities over the years.
Such was the case on the afternoon of February 28, 2016. A fishing boat being operated by Charles Herrin was traveling south across the lake in an attempt to return to the launching ramp on the south shore. Sustained winds of 32 miles per hour from the southwest were creating intense wave action that capsized the boat without warning. Mr. Herrin-72, along with his three passengers, Josue Franco-38, Matthew Cornelison-44, and Gabriel Corneilison-12 were thrown into the cold water. Only Gabriel Cornelison was wearing a personal flotation device.
Mr. Franco quickly submerged and did not reappear. The other three were able to climb onto the hull of the overturned boat but the combination of cold water and strong winds quickly resulted in all three suffering varying degrees of hypothermia.
A few minutes later, fishermen Mike Daley and Ernie Blankenship were also attempting to make their way southward to the boat ramp when they spotted the three survivors clinging to the overturned craft. Despite their boat already taking on water and also in imminent danger of being swamped, Blankenship and Daley proceeded directly to the victims and pulled them into their boat. Although the survivors stated that they had capsized only a few minutes earlier, their muscle function had already decreased to the point where they could no longer assist themselves and had to be pulled bodily into Daley and Blankenship’s boat.
With the additional weight of the three victims in their boat, Daley and Blankenship wisely concluded that it was now far too dangerous to attempt a return to the launching ramp. They called 911 and made their way to a relatively sheltered area on the north end of the lake where they transferred the three victims to arriving emergency medical personnel.
The rapidly progressing effects of hypothermia constituted a true medical emergency and all three victims were transported to an area hospital. One was later transported by medical helicopter to a hospital in Indianapolis for more advanced medical intervention.
There is universal agreement among the Indiana Conservation Officers who responded to this emergency and witnessed the extreme conditions firsthand that had Mr. Daley and Mr. Blankenship not acted decisively and put their own lives and safety at risk, this incident could have very easily resulted in multiple fatalities.
I am recommending that you consider presenting Ernie Blankenship and Mike Daley an appropriate form of commendation to publicly recognize their unselfish and courageous response to this crisis,
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News Writer: Lucy Pery PHONE: 317-527-4141