ALLEGAN, Mich. — The diver who was performing an underwater inspection on a dam in Allegan has been found dead after an apparent drowning.
The diver was sub-contracted by Consumer’s Energy through Great Lakes Engineering Group to inspect the bridge, according to the power company. It’s unclear if the diver was alone or what types of safety protocols were in place at the time.
At around noon on Wednesday, the diver did not emerge from the water, prompting rescue efforts. More than 80 people were involved in the rescue. Sonar equipment, rescue boats and other technology was used.
Multiple agencies responded: Allegan County Sheriff's Office, Van Buren County Sheriff's Office, Berrien County Sheriff's Office, Gun Lake Tribal Police, Plainwell City Police, Hamilton Fire, Saugatuck Fire, Ganges Fire, Allegan Fire, Holland Fire and Graafschap Fire.
“There were a number of boats going back and forth, and they were combing the shoreline, and I was on a dock on the shoreline,” said Ken Yonker, a home owner with property next to the dam.
Yonker, a diver himself, describes the conditions of the water as “dangerous.” He watched the rescue play out and based on his experience, knows that oxygen tanks only last about 30 to 60 minutes. In difficult conditions when you need more oxygen, the length of time is on the shorter.
“So when I was out there 30 minutes and people were still looking, my heart started to sink because I know by diving that it takes a lot of energy expended to be down in that area, so I was beginning to be very concerned,” said Yonker.
The diver’s body was later recovered around 4 p.m. a little downstream from the spot where he was last seen. According to the Hamilton fire chief, rescuers found his body by carrying out a manual underwater grid search after Consumer’s Energy had lowered the water levels and stopped the dam entirely to prevent a current.
The identity and age of the diver is unknown at this time.
In a statement, Consumer’s Energy said in part:
“Our hearts go out to this individual’s family, friends and co-workers during this tragic time. Safety remains Consumers Energy’s top priority and we will work with local authorities as an investigation regarding the cause of this incident is conducted."