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'The statistics are real people': Mother fighting for water safety after son's death in Lake Michigan

Brandon Schmidt, 20, lost his life in a drowning at Windsnest Park on August 15, 2018
mother of brandon schmidt
Posted at 6:29 PM, Jun 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-16 20:07:28-04

PORT SHELDON TOWNSHIP, Mich. — A mother who lost her son to a drowning at Windsnest Park back in 2018 is reclaiming the joy going to the beach once brought her by learning extensively about water safety and working to educate others about the dangers water can pose.

Brandi Donely got the call that no parent wants to receive on August 15, 2018— her 20-year-old son Brandon Schmidt was pulled from the waters of Lake Michigan, unconscious.

"He was under the water for about 45 minutes to an hour before he was rescued," Donely said.

"They performed CPR at the time and transferred him to Holland Hospital… and he was pronounced dead there.”

After it happened, she eventually returned to Windsnest Park.

“I noticed there were no signs, there was no equipment, there was nothing that would have been able to take any measure to save my son's life,” she said.

Donely started speaking with Port Sheldon Township. Eventually, they added several safety signs and rescue equipment at the beach.

The township also added a memorial plaque for Brandon, to honor his legacy and remind all who visit of what can happen.

"It's something that is completely preventable, but we're just not preventing it the way we should be in our society... we need to have a culture of water safety,” said Dave Benjamin, the executive director and co-founder of the Great Lakes Surf and Rescue Project.

Brandi has begun working with the organization to share her family's story with others, and to further her own knowledge of water safety.

“Be mindful of what the lake can bring and what the lake can do... That way your entire family goes home and doesn't end up the way mine ends,” she said.

The Great Lakes Surf and Rescue Project has all kinds of information on their website about how to keep yourself and others safe in and around the water.

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