DMR patrolman who saved distressed kayaker is officer of the year

Daniel Boyer
Daniel Boyer

BILOXI -- A woman whose kayak flipped in the Mississippi Sound later said she would have drowned if Marine Patrol Officer Daniel Boyer hadn't found her.

The lifesaving act has earned Daniel Boyer recognition as the Mississippi Coast Law Enforcement Officer of the Year.

Boyer, of the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, received the honor Monday.

"It's instinct," Boyer said of the heroic act. "We save lives. That's what we do."

He received the award at the annual Law Enforcement Appreciation Breakfast sponsored by Mississippi Coast Crime Stoppers.

Boyer said he was humbled to receive the honor after learning about other officers who were nominated.

Boyer was on duty March 19 when he learned about 3:55 p.m. a kayaker had reported three kayaks capsized in the Mississippi Sound. One kayaker was able to make it ashore to call for help for the others.

The three had launched south of Arbor Station apartments in Long Beach, where they live.

Boyer said he jumped in a truck to reach a rescue boat, launched it and headed to the area where the caller had last seen the other two kayakers.

Boyer said he didn't see anyone at first. He cut off the engine and heard a woman calling out for help.

"Just instinct," Boyer said. "It just clicks in."

The woman's kayak had sunk. She was treading water to stay afloat about a mile from shore. Boyer said he threw her a life ring, pulled her aboard, and took her to the Pass Christian Harbor, where paramedics were waiting.

He radioed other first-responders, who found the last kayaker about three miles south of where he had found the woman. The missing man had been unable to right his kayak and was clinging to it as strong currents pulled him farther into the Sound.

Neither had been wearing a life vest.

The man and the woman had hypothermia and were treated and released.

Both victims had "already made their peace with God" and said they were minutes from giving up, Marine Patrol Chief Keith Davis wrote in his nomination.

The woman was "sure she was going to drown that day," Davis said.

She told officers she "would have had no energy left to continue treading water" if Boyer hadn't showed up when he did, Davis wrote.

Sometimes, Boyer said, "You've got moments to safe a life." He said he's glad he was in the right place at the right time.

Davis said he's proud of Boyer's award.

"His actions helped save someone's life, and he exemplifies the qualities we expect of all of our marine patrol officers," Davis told the Sun Herald.

More than 25 officers were nominated.

Several hundred law enforcement officers and officials from around South Mississippi attended the awards breakfast at the IP Casino Resort.

Others recognized and why they were nominated:

Greene County: Sheriff’s Deputy Donald Wayne Crager, for his patrol work with an emphasis on drug and DUI enforcement, and his community service to include volunteering to run the inaugural Law Enforcement Memorial 5K Run in Biloxi to honor fallen officers.

Hancock County: Sheriff’s Lt. William Reid, for negotiating about 45 minutes with an armed robbery suspect who was holding a gun to his own head and threatening to kill himself. The suspect was among three sought in a holdup in Long Beach on April 26, 2015.

Harrison County: Gulfport police officer Bryan Watson, for rescuing a woman being held against her will off 29th Street on Feb. 14. The woman had been kidnapped as she left a nightclub. Watson interrupted an attempted rape at the hands of a convicted rapist who had just recently been released from prison. Watson chased after the man and caught him.

Jackson County: Sheriff’s deputies Nathan Fisher and Christian Pitalo went to a St. Martin home Jan. 6 where an 8-day-old girl had been found non-responsive Jan. 6. The baby was not breathing. The deputies cleared the infant’s airway and gave emergency medical response until she began to breathe and cry.

Stone County: Sheriff’s Capt. Ray Boggs, for his work as a negotiator, mentor of at-risk youths at Camp Shelby and as a volunteer who drives veterans to doctors’ visits on his own time.

State agency: Mississippi Highway Patrol State Trooper Gary Seale Jr. came to the aid of George County deputies Dec. 27, 2015, as a suspect rammed deputies’ vehicles and fired at them. As the suspect continued to take aim at deputies with his weapon and his vehicle, Seale fired his handgun, ending the incident with no loss of life of deputies or others.

Federal Agency: George Collins with FBI Safe Streets Task Force, for leading a probe targeting the Black Gangster Disciples Street Gang in Southeast Mississippi. He obtained a judge’s permission to perform surveillance on a gang leader’s telephone, leading to numerous arrests and the leader’s conviction with a prison term of more than 40 years. Also led to other arrests in Houston, Texas, and Brooklyn, New York.