Police lieutenant breaks neck in swimming accident

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published August 6, 2013

A weekend swim turned grievous for Sterling Heights Police Lt. Dale Dwojakowski last weekend after he reportedly broke his neck while diving into Lake St. Clair.

Dwojakowski, 42, is in charge of Sterling Heights’ police traffic safety bureau. The Police Department says he has served on the force for 17 years.

According to Police Chief Michael Reese, Dwojakowski was out with family and friends on Lake St. Clair Aug. 3 and spent the day boating and swimming. Reese said Dwojakowski dove off the back of a boat in the evening, not realizing that the section of the lake was shallow.

As a result, Reese said, Dwojakowski suffered a “severe head and neck injury,” and broke his neck in two spots. After the accident, the lieutenant was reportedly taken to McLaren Macomb Hospital in Mount Clemens and later was moved to Beaumont Hospital’s Royal Oak campus.

Reese added that Dwojakowski underwent a lengthy surgery on Sunday, the day after the accident.

“At this point, he does have some movement in his arms and legs, and as each day goes by, he is gaining more strength and more mobility,” the chief said.

Reese said police still do not know the full extent of Dwojakowski’s injuries, and they anticipate a lengthy rehabilitation period. The lieutenant has been placed on medical leave, and police say they expect to learn more about his condition in the next week or so.

“Obviously, we’re very concerned for his well-being, his wife, Jennifer, along with his family,” the chief said. “We have all the confidence that he will return to work after his rehabilitation is complete. He is a vital part of this Police Department.”

In a statement, City Manager Mark Vanderpool called Dwojakowski a wonderful person and great leader, and added that the city hopes and prays for a speedy recovery.

“Our organization was shocked and saddened to learn of Dale's accident, but if anyone can recover from such a life threatening incident — it's Dale,” Vanderpool said.

“He is not only physically strong, but he has incredible courage and an amazing positive approach to difficult situations.” 

The Sterling Heights Police Department, 40333 Dodge Park Road, may be reached at (586) 446-2800.