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Posted on Mon, Mar 26, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

'It was dumb luck,' says sheriff's officer who pulled a man out of tornado rubble

By Lisa Allmendinger


Washtenaw County Sheriff's Deputy Ray Yee recounts pulling a man out of the rubble of his collapsed home moments after a tornado passed through Dexter on March 15.

Melanie Maxwell I

Although he's been called a hero for pulling a Dexter resident from the basement of his home in Huron Farms subdivision following the EF-3 tornado that struck March 15, Deputy Sheriff Ray Yee says “it was dumb luck” that he was even there.

While retracing his steps a week after the tornado, Yee said he was on M-52 and Interstate 94 in Manchester when he responded to a report of a “house implosion” behind Busch's.

“As I’m driving in (to Huron Farms), there’s hail and fat rain drops, I couldn’t see. We pull in and I see a house, then no house, then a house, as I’m looking for the address,” he says.

As one of the first two emergency responders on the scene, Yee and a Michigan State trooper, who had followed him into Dexter from Manchester, started a house-by-house search.

“I see an arm sticking out and a voice saying, ‘help me, help me get out.’ I dash over and I’m asking if he’s OK and he hands me a silver octagon case. He’s a musician and won’t let go of his guitar.”


The foundation is the only thing that remains of the home where Yee pulled a man out of the rubble of his collapsed home moments after a tornado passed through Dexter late last week.

Melanie Maxwell I

The man was in his basement, under the stairs, which protected him when his home crumbled around him, and wanted Yee to grab the case before he was pulled to safety.

“I help him out and it’s still pouring and I’m asking him if he’s OK. He says, ‘I’m fine’ and has two cases, one in each hand, and he just walks off. It was the weirdest thing. I don’t know where he went, he just walked off like something out of a movie.”

From there, Yee says, he and a Michigan State trooper continued checking home after home and inching the patrol car up the road until they came to a home with a garage door open.

There were loud alarms going off and he started banging on the front door, asking if everyone was OK.

“I hear a voice saying, ‘we’re down here.’ I’ve never been in this house and I’m going through it trying to figure out where the basement door is.”

The voice came from a mother, who had two children with her. “She’s halfway up the steps and they are all holding their ears because of the alarms. First, I apologized about the damage, but then I ripped the alarm off the wall,” to silence it, he said.

“I made sure they were OK. They were under the stairs and had a mattress. They were pretty comfortable. I told them to hang tight and I’d come back and let them know when they could come out.”

The concerned mom kept asking, “How will I know when it’s safe to come out? How will I know? I told her I promise I’ll be back.”

Yee said he and Cpl. Mark Mesko walked all the way to the other end of the subdivision, to Meadowview Drive, before they doubled back, checking home after home and marking them with police tape to let other first responders know that the homes had been checked.

All the while, Yee said, "it’s raining on and off, I'm already soaked and I don't have any rain gear, and I'm getting hailed on. "

“If a front door was locked and no one answered, we went to the back and looked in, knocking and knocking, asking if everyone was OK,” he says.

“We had no way of knowing who was home and who wasn’t.”

When he got back to the home with the mom and two children, Yee says he helped them get their car out of the garage, made sure they had ID with them and sent them to Mill Creek Middle School just across the street.

Meanwhile, in Dexter Township, Deputy Marvin Sharrock was at Dexter-Pinckney Road and North Territorial. He saw the funnel cloud forming and no matter which way he traveled, “the tornado seems to be following me,” he says. “I kept trying to get south of it.”


Washtenaw County Sheriff's Sgt. Beth Gieske, Deputy Marvin Sharrock and Deputy Ray Yee stand near a Sheriff's Office vehicle. The three were among the first responders to the Dexter tornado March 15.

Melanie Maxwell I

Sgt. Beth Gieske said she was on Jackson Avenue when the calls began coming in. “Marvin called out a funnel cloud and I headed downtown.”

But, she, too, had trouble getting around Dexter Township because trees and wires were down. She and Sharrock were trying to hook up to get to Carriage Hills subdivision to search. There were reports of trees on homes, but he couldn’t get there.

Gieske said she found a way into the subdivision and began checking homes to make sure people were OK.

“It was amazing, the central dispatch radio communications,” she says, that linked the emergency responders, “with so many things happening at once, the system really worked.”

“And the most amazing thing is that no one got hurt,” she says. Residents have praised the efforts of Dexter Area Fire Department and the neighboring fire departments, which raced to the scene, as well as the Sheriff’s Office, the Michigan State Police, Huron Valley Ambulance and other neighboring ambulance services, the Village Department of Public Works employees, village staff and the Washtenaw County Road Commission. The Salvation Army and the Red Cross, local businesses, the schools and elected officials immediately assisted in any way possible to help with aftermath of the tornado.

But in Yee’s opinion, “The biggest hero in this is the Dexter community, the people who came to check on their neighbors immediately. This community really came together to help out and this is what we talk about when we refer to sustainable communities, bringing back the ‘neighbor’ in neighborhood.”

Lisa Allmendinger is a regional reporter for She can be reached at For more Dexter stories, visit our Dexter page.


Kristin Judge

Tue, Mar 27, 2012 : 1:54 a.m.

It has been a priviledge to know and work with Officer Yee over the past few years. He is a wonderful person and true public servant. His behavior and professionalism are truly heroic as are our other officers in Washtenaw County. We are lucky to have so many committed law enforcement officers every day and in times like these. Thank you to all who helped out in Dexter! Well done Officer Yee!


Tue, Mar 27, 2012 : 12:40 a.m.

This entire situation has me really looking to move to Dexter. Seeing how nice neighobors are to one another, how supportive they are in tough times, and how attractive the area is says a lot to me. I know this has been a very hard time Dexter, but you really have shined in this most difficult of times.

Brian Shensky

Mon, Mar 26, 2012 : 8:52 p.m.

My home missed the twister and wreckage by 300 yards. I continue to be amazed at how well the system worked, and how fantastic everyone has been during this hardest of times. I could not be more proud to say I live in Dexter!


Mon, Mar 26, 2012 : 4:31 p.m.

Although he's been called a hero for pulling a Dexter resident from the basement of his home Hero? Isn't that what we are paying him for.


Tue, Mar 27, 2012 : 4:55 p.m.

Carrie If I need a policemen someday he will be there to help me. WHY?? ITS HIS JOB TO HELP ME. He not a hero. He is doing exactly what we pay him to do. If he doesn't he will be fired.


Mon, Mar 26, 2012 : 6:32 p.m.

While most people were taking cover from the storm the officers were out in it working to help those who needed it. They put themselves at risk from falling trees, an F3 tornado, unstable houses, etc. etc. Whether they are paid or not doesn't matter.


Mon, Mar 26, 2012 : 6:28 p.m.

Carrie....look at my first post.There has to always be at least one in every crowd


Mon, Mar 26, 2012 : 5:30 p.m.

Harry, I hope you need the police some day and then see what your attitude is. Some people are just jerks.


Mon, Mar 26, 2012 : 3:46 p.m.

This is proof positive that Washtenaw County's expensive 800 MHz Inter-agency radio communications system works as intended.


Mon, Mar 26, 2012 : 1:34 p.m.

Yes, it is "dumb luck" to be able help someone when you rush toward danger looking for people to rescue. Thank you to all police officers, first responders, and fire fighters.


Mon, Mar 26, 2012 : 1:19 p.m.

Good article. I have nothing but respect for all of our first responders. Thank you.

Linda Peck

Mon, Mar 26, 2012 : 1:15 p.m.

Wonderful story! Thank you for sharing this!


Mon, Mar 26, 2012 : 12:59 p.m.

The greatest heros are those that do their jobs without thinking they are being heroic. What a wonderful man! Congratulations to him and to all of the other heros of the tornado.


Mon, Mar 26, 2012 : 11:53 a.m.

We are oh so grateful to have them but we kick them to the curb with every budget cut. The drop in the police citizen ratio in this state is appalling.


Mon, Mar 26, 2012 : 11:43 a.m.

I wonder what the anti cop people will have to say about this one ? I bet nothing, they only comment when they THINK the cops have done something wrong.Anyway good job to the sheriff. Now off topic here but whats up with the blue uniforms ?

monroe c

Mon, Mar 26, 2012 : 4:19 p.m.

WCSDs Class B uniforms are black


Mon, Mar 26, 2012 : 2:33 p.m.

Tremendous Thank You to all in involved and to those that continue to keep the neighborhood safe even a week after the tornado!


Mon, Mar 26, 2012 : 1:15 p.m.

K-9 unit perhaps ?


Mon, Mar 26, 2012 : 11:33 a.m.

Thank you so much for your service and commitment!


Mon, Mar 26, 2012 : 10:40 a.m.

Awesome job! Continue and best wishes for serving the count.