SOUTH HAVEN, Mich. — Officials were forced to shut down the beach in South Haven Friday after multiple people needed to be rescued from the water.
Despite the fencing and signage indicating the beach was closed, the water was filled with people who went around the barriers to get into Lake Michigan.
“We’re pleading with people. Our rescuers are tired of being in the water,” said Ron Wise, executive director of South Haven Emergency Services. “They’re tired of seeing people struggling, almost die. It just can’t get any clearer. When it’s a red flag, it’s just not a day to go swimming.”
An 18-year-old man was rescued by Wise earlier in the day after getting caught in the currents along the south pier — one of the most dangerous places to be swimming.
“He was basically seconds away from going under, if rescuers weren’t able to get to him right away,” Wise said.
People at the beach helped rescue someone else less than an hour later.
Chris Jermeay was visiting the beach from Kalamazoo, and said he wasn’t sure why people weren’t adhering to the red flag warnings.
“We were kind of confused to say the least. But it seems people are swimming and they don’t care,” he said. “There’s a reason for it. Red flags, high currents. These kids, they are very small. They can get dragged under pretty quick, me not so much, but I would still abide by it.
Those who did take the risk and go into the water say they experienced the strength of the current.
“The waves definitely take you out and the tide, you feel it. It feels like you’re floating and then when you try to swim back in, you’re not going anywhere,” one swimmer said.
Emergency responders are taking steps to prepare for crowded beaches by having extra fire and EMS workers stationed at the south beach. They’re also resorting to drastic measures to discourage anyone from doing some dangerous and giving a $500 fine to people who get rescued.