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Three conservation officers honored at Michigan Natural Resources Commission meeting

Nov. 15, 2021


The Michigan Department of Natural Resources recently resumed in-person award presentations for staff at the Michigan Natural Resources Commission meeting, held Nov. 10 at the Michigan Library and Historical Center in Lansing.

The department recognized conservation officers Tyler Sabuda and Andrea Erratt and retired Cpl. Ivan Perez. Sabuda received a distinguished service award, and Erratt and Perez were presented as the 2019 and 2020 Shikar Safari Officer of the Year recipients - the DNR Law Enforcement Division's highest honor, awarded annually. The Shikar Safari award presentations were previously delayed due to the pandemic.

Conservation Officer Tyler Sabuda, Distinguished Service Award

Contact: Lt. Brandon Kieft, 989-275-5151, ext. 272-7100

Conservation Officer Tyler Sabuda, Iosco County, was honored with a distinguished service award after risking his own life to save the driver of a vehicle submerged in the Au Sable River.

July 13 was a rainy and overcast day. At 4:06 p.m., Sabuda received a call regarding a fully submerged vehicle in the river, near Cooke Dam in Oscoda. The driver, Joseph Sand, 82, from Davison, was trapped inside the vehicle.

The water temperature was 72 degrees, and the air temperature was 69 degrees. At the location just below Cooke Dam, the river is approximately 230 feet wide with a fast-moving current.

Sand and Rodney Weinzierl, 70, of Millington, were visiting Sand's nearby property. The two stopped at the lower Cooke Dam boat launch, where Weinzierl exited the vehicle to smoke a cigar. Weinzierl said Sand was turning the vehicle around and somehow drove into the river.

Sabuda arrived at the scene at 4:19 p.m. When Sabuda reached the edge of the water, he could see a red vehicle completely submerged in 6 feet of water, approximately 125 feet downstream of the launch and approximately 50 feet from the river's edge.

Sabuda was advised by a bystander that Sand was in the vehicle and nobody on shore had yet attempted to enter the fast-moving water.

Sabuda removed his uniform in preparation to attempt a water rescue, at which point Greg Alexander, an officer with Oscoda Township Police Department, arrived on scene and prepared to enter the water as well. Sabuda entered the water with his DNR-issued inflatable life vest and a window punch.

As Sabuda approached the vehicle, he could see Sand in the driver's seat with his seatbelt on and the window down. Fighting the strong current, Sabuda forced the door partially open, but the current kept closing the door on Sabuda's body while he attempted to remove Sand from the vehicle.

Alexander arrived and was able to hold the door open so Sabuda could dive under the water, unfastem the seatbelt and remove Sand from the car.

Sabuda and Alexander put the life vest on Sand and began swimming against the current toward shore. An individual on a kayak assisted Sabuda, Alexander and Sand in getting back to shore.

As Sabuda approached shore, he asked a firefighter to retrieve his automated external defibrillator out of his patrol truck. When Sabuda arrived on shore, Danny Gallahar, an officer with Oscoda Township Police Department, handed Sabuda his AED.

Gallahar began CPR on Sand while Sabuda prepped Sand for treatment with the AED. The AED advised no shock so Sabuda ran to his patrol truck, got his Ambu Bag and returned to provide rescue breaths while Gallahar did chest compressions. The AED, again, advised no shock.

At 4:33 p.m., paramedics transported Sand to Ascension St. Joseph Hospital in Tawas City, where he was pronounced dead at approximately 5:06 p.m.

"Sabuda selflessly put his life in harm's way, in an attempt to save another, without hesitation," said Chief Gary Hagler, DNR Law Enforcement Division. "Sabuda received numerous cuts and bruises due to the harsh environment of the riverbed and fast current. While the outcome of events was unfortunate, it doesn't change the exemplary courage displayed by Sabuda." 

Conservation Officer Andrea Erratt - 2019 Shikar Safari Officer of the Year

Contact: Lt. James Gorno, 989-732-3541

Andrea Erratt began her career as a conservation officer in November 1997. During her first month she made 25 arrests for violations, including loaded guns in motor vehicles, illegal deer, untagged deer and traps and two drunken drivers.

Erratt patrolled nearly 10 years each in Cheboygan and Charlevoix counties and is currently assigned to Antrim County. During her career, she has helped resolve a wide variety of violations on behalf of the DNR and Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, including fish, game, snowmobile, marine, ORV, illegal burning, timber theft, litter and illegal disposal of solid waste.

Some of her accomplishments include:

  • Collecting over $22,000 in reimbursements due to game arrests, including illegal bull and cow elk, deer, trumpeter swan, bobcat, mink, otter and nonresident license fee cases.
  • Receiving a grant from International Wildlife Crimestoppers, Inc., for a new mechanical deer decoy and additional funding from the Charlevoix Rod and Gun Club.
  • Preparing 14 briefs for prosecution cases, ranging from unregistered snowmobiles and illegal burning to illegal deer and fish snagging.
  • Receiving a 2020 Citation of Professional Excellence for assisting with a hunter casualty investigation that resulted in a manslaughter conviction.
  • Locating more than 90 individuals with illegal blinds and tree stands, which she found by patrolling state land on foot.

"Erratt is an exemplary conservation officer and conducts herself with the highest level of professionalism, which makes her a role model in the community and to other officers," said Chief Gary Hagler, DNR Law Enforcement Division. "Her enthusiasm and dedication to the resources and her team make her an outstanding game warden."

Retired Cpl. Ivan Perez - 2020 Shikar Safari Officer of the Year

Contact: Lt. Tom Wanless,

A Texas native, retired Cpl. Ivan Perez grew up hunting and fishing and was interested in pursuing a career as a conservation officer.

While enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard, Perez was stationed at U.S. Coast Guard Station Saginaw River, where he met conservation officers who docked their boats at the same pier. In 1995, Perez fulfilled his childhood dream and became a conservation officer, assigned to Ottawa County.

During his 26-year career, Perez was involved in numerous lengthy investigations and prosecutions, including boating fatalities, working undercover to stop the spread of invasive species into the state, and several significant trophy deer and turkey investigations.

Based on his extensive knowledge and experience in boating and marine safety, in 2019 Perez was promoted to a marine specialist corporal in the Law Enforcement Division's Recreational Safety Education and Enforcement section - the first person to be placed in the new position.

Within a year, Perez investigated 10 permanent local watercraft controls, which are special rules for boating, and 10 temporary local watercraft controls, requiring extensive communication and data collection. He also took it upon himself to research local boating events and contact the event coordinators to ensure the presence and participation of conservation officers.

During the coronavirus pandemic, Perez assisted with establishing online boating safety classes for numerous state and federal entities so more people could safely enjoy the outdoors.

"Perez's success can be attributed to his ability to create positive and long-lasting relationships within his community and local municipalities, including local, state and federal officials," said Chief Gary Hagler, DNR Law Enforcement Division.

Michigan conservation officers are fully commissioned law enforcement officers who protect natural resources, ensure recreational safety and protect residents by providing general law enforcement duties and lifesaving operations in the communities they serve. Due to the nature of their job, these officers often work with federal, state and local law enforcement officers to ensure public safety. Learn more at

Note to editors: Accompanying photos are available below for download. Caption information follows. Credit: Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Group: From left, Capt. Jen Wolf, Conservation Officer Tyler Sabuda, Conservation Officer Andrea Erratt, retired Cpl. Ivan Perez and Chief Gary Hagler.

Sabuda: From left, Capt. Jen Wolf, Conservation Officer Tyler Sabuda and Chief Gary Hagler.

Erratt: From left, Capt. Jen Wolf, Conservation Officer Andrea Erratt and Chief Gary Hagler.

Perez: From left, Capt. Jen Wolf, retired Cpl. Ivan Perez and Chief Gary Hagler.