Hero from New Buffalo beach rescue getting national honor

'Lifesaver of the Year' by National Drowning Prevention Alliance

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By Ryan Klund - rklund@abc57.com

NEW BUFFALO, Mich. - A Michigan man has been honored for saving a life at New Buffalo’s Public Beach in August. Bob Pratt, a lifetime firefighter, has been named ‘Lifesaver of the Year’ by the National Drowning Prevention Alliance.

Pratt, a resident of East Lansing, was in New Buffalo Wednesday and shared his story with ABC 57.
“The rip current caught him and took him off of the sandbar,” said Pratt, remembering the August 28th rescue. Pratt had just finished teaching a lifesaving class to surfers on the beach. Pratt is the lead instructor for the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, a training program he started last summer.
“I heard the mother yelling and almost instinctively I took off towards the water,” he said. Pratt and one of his students swam out into a rip current and saved the young boy. When the two reached the boy he was showing signs of drowning.
“I saw Bob just bolt out there I knew something was going on. I heard the woman screaming,” David Benjamin, Pratt’s partner with the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.  
It’s almost ironic that Pratt had been teaching a life-saving class when life-saving skills were needed on the water. Benjamin said rescues like the one on August 28th are why the two started the group. “If a person is not right there in the moment to help the person they’re going under.”
Last summer Benjamin and Pratt trained dozens of surfers and boaters on Lake Michigan. Almost half of all drowning happen on Lake Michigan.
“Surfers save people’s lives all the time,” said Pratt. He hopes the rescue raises awareness for the program he is trying to build.
The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project officially became a non-profit organization over the winter. This summer they hope to train hundreds of surfers throughout the Great Lakes.
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