South Haven warns of melting ice dangers

Posted at 10:02 PM, Mar 09, 2015

SOUTH HAVEN, Mich. -- Law enforcement in Van Buren County is warning people to stay away from the melting ice on Lake Michigan.

Ronald Wise with South Haven Emergency Services said that he understands why so many people are veering near the thinning ice. "You know we've had cabin fever all winter, and it's been so bitterly cold and the wind, and we just want to get outside and enjoy the outdoors," said Wise.

Wise said that if people aren't careful, their scenic walk can quickly turn into a life threatening situation.

"Normally people wait for someone to get injured or die before they go, 'Oh that is dangerous,'" said Wise. "If you get too close to the edge, you slip off. If you look down there, that's seven to eight feet. You can't get back up."

Mark Byrne came out to enjoy the scenery at the South Haven pier on Monday evening, but with the recent warmup, he's taking some extra precautions with his kids near the melting ice, such as "keep my son close to me, not let him get close to the edge because it's very slippery," said Byrne. "You know, make sure you always have an eye on them."

A big concern in South Haven are the ice mounds. Wise said that most are hollow, and if someone were to fall through, they could fall as much as 15 feet into the cold water.

The rescue crews aren't immune to danger, either.

A simple rescue also puts their crews at risk: "If that person fights with them, if they have equipment malfunction, if there is current. There is just a multitude of things that could injure our rescuers," said Wise.

Anyone who falls into the ice will also have to pay the city about $500 to pay for rescue costs.