February 16, 2023  |  10:11 am

Sheriff Randy Smith has named the 2022 St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office Deputy of the Year – Deputy Michael Helbach.

Deputy Helbach has served the citizens of St. Tammany Parish for the past 17 years. He began his career in 2005 shortly after graduating from Slidell High School. After having a successful career in Corrections, Deputy Helbach transferred to Criminal Patrol in 2018, and eventually to our Special Operations Division in 2021, where he currently serves as part of the Marine Search and Rescue Team. In 2022, Deputy Helbach was involved in numerous life-saving water search and rescue missions.

One of the missions occurred near the Highway 11 Bridge after a vessel hit the train bridge, leaving four people on the vessel injured and one missing. Deputy Helbach immediately responded to the area and used his good judgement to pick up EMS personnel at a boat launch. He was able to get to the vessel and loaded all survivors on the patrol boat so EMS could render aid. After returning the survivors to the dock, he returned to the area and began searching for the missing boater, who he recovered the following day, bringing closure to the family.

During another incident, Deputy Helbach assisted in a search and rescue operation in which he was able to relay pertinent info to the U.S. Coast which resulted in the rescue of a missing boater. His extreme knowledge of the waterways was a contributing factor to this rescue.

Another incident to note involved Deputy Helbach assisting the LA Dept. of Wildlife and Fisheries and the US Coast Guard in rescuing a charter captain whose vessel had capsized. After receiving a call reporting a missing boat with minimal information, Deputy Helbach was able to obtain cell phone pings from the missing boater's phone.

The cell phone was pinging in St. Bernard Parish and Deputy Helbach learned St. Bernard Sheriff deputies were already enroute. Deputy Helbach continued to work tirelessly to help locate the boater by relaying information, including the coordinates of the last known cellphone ping to the other agencies involved. The boater was rescued by Louisiana Dept. of Wildlife and Fisheries, and they commended Deputy Helbach for his efforts in assisting with this rescue mission.

“Deputy Helbach serves the citizens of St. Tammany Parish with professionalism and integrity,” Sheriff Randy Smith said. “It’s about the families he’s helped and the rescues he has made. I thank him for his selfless service, and I am honored to name him 2022 Deputy of the Year – a title he so well deserves.”