Tony and Paulette Bieker only desired to have a relaxing weekend in the outdoors on Antelope Lake. Unfortunately, the camping and lake weekend the couple had planned out quickly turned into a disaster during mid-July of 2011.
Antelope lake is located slightly northwest of Hays and is controlled by the Parks and Tourism division of the Kansas Department of Wildlife. On July 16 and 17, 2011, Bieker’s boat had somehow become pinned to slightly concealed obstacles that were hidden by the water. Although the boat was around 150 feet from shore, the boat was completely stuck. Bieker tried desperately to dislodge his boat from the obstacles but was unable to. He settled in and waited for sunlight to return when he intended to shout for help. His wife remained on land at their camping site.
As darkness arrived, an officer of the Kansas Department of Wildlife named Michael McGinnis saw that the boat remained on the water despite darkness setting in. The boat turned its emergency lights on and directed them at Bieker. While Bieker may have thought this was help arriving, the officer instead ordered Bieker and his boat to get off of the water.
Bieker obeyed orders and donned a lifejacket. He entered the water and attempted to knock the boat free from its captors. Bieker’s wife saw that he had entered the water and shouted that is wasn’t safe to swim at night. Bieker was again unable to free the boat but was unable to climb back into the boat. He realized he was in trouble and shouted the words “I love you” to his wife.
Bieker slipped under the water. McGinnis tried three times to throw a rescue device to Bieker. He did not allow Bieker’s wife to swim to her husband’s assistance. McGinnis never called for backup. McGinnis dragged Bieker to shore and attempted emergency treatment unsuccessfully. He was pronounced dead at Hays Medical Center.
The lawsuit against the state was settled in the amount of $33,000. The state argued for dismissal of the lawsuit on the grounds that a law enforcement officer does not have any duty to provide extraordinary medical care. The plaintiff had sought over $75,000 in damages. $15,000 of the amount will come from the state’s treasury fund with the rest coming directly from the Kansas Wildlife Department.