'I'm freezing cold': Footprints lead DNR officers to missing Michigan boy

Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officers followed footprints for more than a mile in their search for a missing teen boy last week.

The 14-year-old was reported missing before 4:30 p.m. March 21 after he was released from a hospital in the Upper Peninsula. 

Conservation Officer John Kamps and probationary Conservation Officer Steve Sajtar began their search for the boy, who lives on Marquette County Road 545 North in West Branch Township.

The officers located a set of footprints and began tracking them, south of County Road 545 North and Maplewood Road. Officers followed the footprints about 650 yards where they encountered a person walking. The person told them that a boy who matched the missing teen’s description had walked east on Maplewood Road about three hours earlier.

The footprints continued for over a mile until Maplewood Road came to a dead end. The officers followed into swampland surrounding Foster Creek, where the snow measured up to thigh-deep on the officers.

"With below-freezing temperatures and only a couple hours of daylight left, time was of the essence," Sajtar said. "We knew the boy was likely cold and wet from the swamp."

At 6:10 p.m., Kamps and Sajtar found the boy sitting on a snowbank along Foster Creek, wearing only a shirt and pajama pants. He had taken off his shoes and socks because he had fallen into the creek, and they got wet. He had a jacket wrapped around his feet to warm them.

"I’m freezing cold," the boy told the officers.

Officers said the boy had a loss of pigmentation and numbness in his feet.

Read more stories from around Michigan here. 

Kamps put his gloves on the boy's feet, while Sajtar helped him put his shoes on and get out of the woods. They had to take several breaks as they helped walk the boy to an ambulance that was about 275 feet away. 

EMS transported the boy to UP Health System in Marquette where he was treated for cold exposure.