West Bloomfield resident Andrea Soultanian, who is an advanced swimmer, almost drowned in Morris Lake July 4 in a fluke accident when she became entangled in an anchor rope.

West Bloomfield resident Andrea Soultanian, who is an advanced swimmer, almost drowned in Morris Lake July 4 in a fluke accident when she became entangled in an anchor rope.

Photo by Erin Sanchez


Orchard Lake man saves West Bloomfield woman from drowning

By: Sherri Kolade | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published October 4, 2018

 Orchard Lake resident Justin Moore stands Oct. 3 at Morris Lake — the location where he saved Soultanian’s life. His heroic efforts are getting him recognized in West Bloomfield Township.

Orchard Lake resident Justin Moore stands Oct. 3 at Morris Lake — the location where he saved Soultanian’s life. His heroic efforts are getting him recognized in West Bloomfield Township.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

WEST BLOOMFIELD/ORCHARD LAKE — He had seconds.

Orchard Lake resident Justin Moore, 20, had mere moments to either call the police or rescue a woman in a precarious situation on Morris Lake, in West Bloomfield.  

He chose the latter July 4, saving West Bloomfield resident Andrea Soultanian from drowning.

“There is a moment there you realize, ‘I either call the police and basically tell them where she drowned, or I jump in the water and at least try to prevent her from drowning’ — that is what was going through my head before I jumped in the water,” Moore said.  

Soultanian, 73, who described herself as “a really strong swimmer,” has been swimming since she was in her 20s. That afternoon was a “freak accident.”    

That day, Soultanian blew up a giant pink flamingo and a giant white swan to anchor out onto the lake for kids to play on. But just as she was setting the anchor out, the heavy rope wound up wrapping around her arm.

“(It) took me straight down,” she said of the skinny rope, adding that it cut the circulation off in her arm. “I couldn’t grab the chain and bring it back up. I was able to get up long enough to get the seam of the pink flamingo and yell for help, and Justin came right out.”

She said it took two tries before he was able to get the chain up high enough for her to get it off her arm so they could get back to shore.

“He’s basically afraid of water — for him to do what he did is mind-boggling,” she said, adding that after they reached the shore, they sat there for about 30 minutes and “looked at each other like, ‘What happened?’”

Moore said that he was fishing that day when he heard Soultanian yell for help.

“I’m the only one there, and I immediately thought, ‘profanity,’ and it was kind of just an immediate shoes off, shirt off, glasses (off), phone (down),” Moore said. It took him two minutes to swim 50 yards out to her. He reached under her to get the rope off. 

“The way I think about it is if it was any other person, they would have done the same thing. You’re not going to watch someone die in the water.”

Soultanian asked township officials in an email later that month if Moore could be recognized, and her question was answered in a big way.    

West Bloomfield Assistant Fire Chief Andrew Bezenah said that Moore will receive a Meritorious Citizen Award for his heroic efforts. He will be recognized by the Fire Department at 3 p.m. Oct. 23 at an awards ceremony at Fire Station 5, 5425 W. Maple Road. He will be recognized along with another citizen. 

During a Sept. 24 township Board of Trustees meeting, Moore was recognized for his heroic efforts and received a standing ovation.    

Township Supervisor Steven Kaplan said during a phone interview that the Meritorious Citizen Award is given out several times a year to honor people who perform extraordinary acts for fellow citizens.

“We honor citizens from time to time,” he said. “The township is delighted to learn about heroic efforts by one of our residents.”

He added that Moore wanted to downplay his part in helping save a life.

“I think he would prefer it be kept quiet, but (he) did a very good thing,” Bezenah said. Drowning rescues are not a frequent occurrence in the township.

Bezenah said Moore put his own life in danger; the risks are not always known in the water.

“There was a risk he could have been injured or possibly died,” Bezenah said. “I think he was very sincere, and she was very thankful; she realizes if he hadn’t been there, she wouldn’t have been alive.” 

During the township board meeting, West Bloomfield Township Clerk Debbie Binder said that no one knows what they would do in such encounters.

“It sounds like you didn’t hesitate — you stepped in and did what you needed to do … a great role model to other young people,” she said. 

“He’s a remarkable young man. … Some of these millennials get a bad rap; this guy is a doll, baby,” Soultanian said.