by Graham Sturgeon, co-editor
Shiawassee County Sheriff George Braidwood struggled to keep his emotions from getting the better of him as he presented Corunna eighth grader Hunter McCorkle with an award Monday, Sept. 26 for his “heroic and brave actions” that “played a significant role in saving his father’s life.” McCorkle, who is 14 years old, acted quickly to get help on Sept. 4 after his father, Craig McCorkle, fell 20 to 25 feet from a tree blind and severely injured his back. Due to Hunter’s quick thinking, Craig was rescued, airlifted to Hurley hospital, and is in the process of rehabbing following two spinal surgeries to repair two affected vertebrae.
Craig and Hunter were preparing for hunting season by clearing branches surrounding the elder McCorkle’s tree stand on a friend’s property on
Bennington Rd. the Sunday before Labor Day when the tree stand gave way, causing Craig to fall. With his father unable to move, Hunter found his father’s cell phone and called his mother, Colleen, who then telephoned Shiawassee County Central Dispatch at 11:48 a.m. By 11:53 a.m., both Colleen and Shiawassee County Sergeant Robert Herrick were on the scene. They located the address Hunter had given Colleen and had found Craig’s truck parked near the road, but neither had any idea where the father and son were. Thankfully, Hunter was able to guide help to his father, who was located near a line of trees more than 100 yards off the road on the other side of a cornfield. Sgt. Herrick and Colleen, along with the help of Deputy Robert Brancheau, and Corunna Area Ambulance paramedics Zak McNamara and Kasie Robbins used Craig’s truck to transport the injured man to a clearing, which made it possible for the University of Michigan Survival Flight helicopter to make the pick-up. The air transport took off for Hurley by 12:38 p.m., meaning that the entire rescue took less than an hour, mostly because of Hunter’s quick thinking.
“Through the entire thing, Hunter was calm and did not panic,” Colleen said following the presentation of the award. “We never would have found Craig if it wasn’t for Hunter. And the neurosurgeons said Craig was a hair’s breath away from permanent paralysis, so Hunter’s actions really saved him. Even as the helicopter was taking off with Craig, Hunter was in the car telling me everything would be okay. You just don’t know how you are going to react in that situation, so I am just very proud of Hunter for how he handled it.”
Sergeant Herrick, who happens to coach Corunna Youth Football with Craig, was impressed with the young man’s poise throughout the situation, and recommended that Sheriff Braidwood consider honoring Hunter for his actions. “A lot of people have wanted to congratulate me for helping to rescue Mr. McCorkle, but I was just doing my job. The real credit goes to Hunter. You don’t know how people will react in that type of situation, but Hunter did exactly what he needed to do to save his dad, when most people his age would not have been able to act so quickly.”
Sheriff Braidwood elaborated on that point while presenting the award. “Those of us in law enforcement are trained to handle this type of situation, but Hunter just acted on his instincts,” Braidwood said. “A lot of people would fall apart, especially after watching a family member sustain such a terrible injury, but you (Hunter) acted with a cool head and used common sense. That is a talent and a skill that will serve you well throughout your life.”
Craig is still being cared for at Hurley Medical Center, where he is using a walker to rehabilitate his body through physical therapy. Colleen says that Craig’s incomplete spinal cord injury makes it difficult for doctors to give an accurate recovery prognosis, but Hunter is confident his father will be able to recover. He calls his father “pretty tough,” and Colleen reports that Craig is “exceeding all of his physical therapy goals.”
Meanwhile, Hunter is still playing youth football in Corunna, and he reports that his teammates and their parents have been very supportive. Parents have cooked dinners for the McCorkles, and Hunter’s team now wears “Stay Strong Coach Craig” stickers on their helmets. The road to recovery is still long for Craig and his family, but Hunter and Colleen, with the help of the supportive Corunna community, are confident that Craig will be able to, one day, put the injury behind him.