Michigan Men Honored for Rescue of Drowning Girl

Two members of Park Christian Reformed Church in Holland, Mich., were honored for their rescue of a teenage girl who was drowning in Lake Michigan.

John Schloff (left) and Mark Quist receive a U.S Coast Guard Meritorious Public Service Award after saving a girl from drowning.”

Mark Quist, pastor of Park CRC, and John Schloff, a physician from the church, received the U.S. Coast Guard Meritorious Public Service Award for their effort last August.

With high winds and rip currents strong enough for authorities to close the beach at Holland State Park, 28 swimmers in the area were rescued that day.

Schloff, 45, and Quist, 44, were riding a personal watercraft when they noticed a crowd on the pier. As they approached, a Coast Guard officer waved them over—“an urgent kind of wave,” said Quist.

As soon as they spotted the desperate swimmer, “We were on a mission,” said Schloff. “We knew what we had to do. We didn’t think of anything else. We were part of that team right away.”

When they reached the teen, Quist jumped off, and Schloff searched for a rope. Even with a life vest, when the girl latched onto Quist “it got to a point where I was getting more water than air,” he said. It was so windy that rescuers couldn’t get the life ring to them. “I thought I was going to drown,” said Quist.

Quist was eventually able to swim with the girl toward some boulders along the pier, but strong waves and slippery algae made it impossible to hang on to them. “Then a huge wave came and picked us up over the first set of rocks,” lifting them to safety. Quist said, “I just look at that and say, ‘Thank you, God.’”

Receiving the award was humbling for both men. Quist said, “I’m just glad that God had us at the right place at the right time. It was pretty clear to me that God was gracious and really saved both of us.”

About the Author

Susan Vanden Berg is a freelance news correspondent for The Banner. She lives in Holland, Michigan.

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