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Nonprofit stresses water safety education after tragedy at Pere Marquette

Posted at 7:35 PM, Oct 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-19 06:29:45-04

MUSKEGON, Mich. — Thursday at 10:45 p.m., Muskegon firefighters and emergency crews were dispatched to Pere Marquette due to reports of a swimmer struggling in the water.

At 1:45 a.m. on Friday, the body of 18-year-old Taleah Lowe was recovered, officials said.

READ MORE: 18-year-old from South Haven drowns at Pere Marquette Beach in Muskegon

Friends of Lowe created a GoFundMe account in her honor and described her as a "beautiful young soul" and "one of the kindest people on the planet."

It's because of tragedies like this that Dave Benjamin has made it his mission to teach water safety to others.

“I know it’s a heart-wrenching incident where a young person dies a preventable death,” said Benjamin during a Zoom interview on Friday. “I know there was some wave activity and had several types of dangerous currents.”

Benjamin co-founded of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, a nonprofit dedicated to water safety education and saving people's lives. He spoke with the mother of one of Lowe’s friends, and he said his heart goes out to them as they're grieving at this time.

“Really, what I think this incident should really stress is the need for water safety education in the school system,” Benjamin said, “so that we grow up with this culture of water safety, and that’s currently what we do not have on the Great Lakes.”

Benjamin and his nonprofit introduced a bill to lawmakers months ago that would allow them to teach water safety in schools. It's something he's been doing for a while. However, the pandemic stopped their efforts and later on, the bill was rejected.

However, Benjamin's not giving up on his goal to educate as many people and kids as possible about ways to protect themselves when in the water.

“We believe that in an incident like this where you have someone who’s a recent high school graduate, if they had that education, they may have stayed out of the water or away from the water yesterday,” Benjamin said. 

Lowe was a student at Grand Valley State University. They provided this statement:

"Grand Valley State University is saddened to confirm that Taleah Lowe is a student at the university. University Counseling and Housing and Residence Life are offering counseling and support to her friends, and the university is working with her family to offer support at this time."

***UPDATE: As of Tuesday morning 10/19, the GoFundMe in Taleah's name created by her friends has been taken down.***

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