Rescuer credits life jacket, prayer for teen’s survival on lake

Posted at 10:13 PM, Aug 04, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-04 23:20:17-04

NORTON SHORES, Mich. -- A teenager in Muskegon County, left stranded in Lake Michigan for over an hour on Wednesday, was rescued by a mother who was out on the water with her kids.

Janel Prichard heard about the possible missing swimmer on her boat's radio. She credits the boy's survival to his life jacket and her prayers.

The 17-year-old boy was found drifting about three miles from the shore, waiting in the water for about an hour. He was stranded after his friend's Sea Doo malfunctioned, and his friend left him behind to make it to shore to bring back help.

"The lake was calm. It was clear, it was warm. It was one of those days where you just want to be out on the boat," said Prichard.

The perfect day on Lake Michigan became clouded by the news that came over on her boat's radio. "I was alerted late in the afternoon that a Sea Doo had had difficulties, and one of the passengers was in the lake and needed to be rescued," said Prichard.

Prichard says she knows the lake like the back of her hand and helped police and the Coast Guard in their search on Wednesday. "The police and Coast Guard said they will start heading north, and then I would start heading south, so we kind of separated and went parallel to the beach about a mile and a half out."

At one point, Prichard stopped her boat to pray. "We just need to stop for a minute and ask God to help us and just pray to give us eyes to see, to give the boy peace. And within five minutes I looked and there he was," said Prichard.

The teenager was in good shape. Prichard says he looked like he was relaxing in the water, holding his life jacket.

"He was just floating happily," said Prichard. "I pulled up to him, and he was just kind of calm. I pulled him in the boat and put a towel around him. I asked him how long he was out there, and he said, 'Oh, probably ten minutes or so,' and I knew he had been out there over an hour."

The teen was visiting friends from out of town and didn't realize the gravity of the situation until he got ashore. "You could see all of the people on shore waiting for him and cheering, and the Coast Guard helicopter was overhead, and he was like, 'Hmm, I think this was a bigger deal than I thought.'"

With drownings on Lake Michigan happening all too often, this is reason enough to be prepared when heading out onto the water, said Prichard. "You have to wear your life jacket. You have to be aware of the safety precautions that are needed when you're on a boat."

In a situation like this one, it's not recommended for you to leave a person stranded in the water. The Coast Guard recommends that if your water vehicle is malfunctioning, the best course of action is to leave it where it is. Have someone in your party point out to the swimmer and continually call out where the person is in relation to your water craft. If you lose sight of the swimmer, immediately alert the Coast Guard.