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Search for victim in Lake Michigan continues in rough waters

South Haven emergency services responded to four water rescues over weekend, reiterate “red flags means do not swim”
Posted at 5:49 PM, Sep 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-07 17:49:42-04

SOUTH HAVEN, Mich. — Pamela Jenkins and her daughter Kristin Lawrence enjoy walking on the beach, they said. They typically head to Grand Haven. However, for Labor Day they decided to go South Beach in South Haven. When they arrived they were shocked to find it closed.

Then they spoke to a few locals on the beach and learned why.

“They been warning the [beachgoers] since Friday about the high tide and so it’s very unfortunate,” Jenkins said during an interview with FOX 17 on Monday. “But I’m hoping peace comes to the families and they are able to recover those that are lost at sea.”

According to the South Haven Area Emergency Services, two men, an 18-year-old and a 19-year-old, were in distress on Lake Michigan around 4:30 p.m. on Sunday. The 19-year-old was found clinging to a buoy in waves that were 3-to-5 feet high. He told authorities that his friend attempted to swim back to shore but he never resurfaced.

“Right now everything’s kind of at a standstill,” said SHAES Captain Paul Quinn about the search for the last victim. “Talking with a dive team this morning, [it's] too windy, visibility is too bad. Conditions aren’t favorable for going in diving and doing a search.”

Capt. Quinn said Sunday’s emergency incident was their fourth of the weekend. The day before, authorities responded to three different emergencies: a woman found floating in the water unconscious, a man caught in rip tides and another man floundering in the water about a mile away from North Beach.

Capt. Quinn said the red flags were out the entire time.

“Red flag conditions means do not swim, stay out of the water,” Capt. Quinn said. “There will always be another green flag day. It looks like a lot of fun. It looks great. You may think you’re a really strong swimmer or you may think this is no problem for me but it’s going to happen.”

Capt. Quinn said there's been three drowning this year. He’s noticed that many of the victims were from out-of-town or even out-of-state. The difference between Lake Michigan and the ocean is that the waves are stacked on top of each other.

"You get hit by a 4, 5-foot wave, even a 6-foot wave and it’s going to take you under,” Capt. Quinn said. “So you’re always getting slammed, slammed, and slammed until you get so tired it beats you.”

He suggested beachgoers abide by the red flags. The Van Buren County Sheriffs office have been patrolling the water on Monday making sure people did not get into the water.

When a few did, Jenkins and Lawrence questioned why they would do so in these conditions.

“For safety reasons really I feel none of us should be out there right now,” Jenkins said.