Drownings in Lake Michigan this Weekend

waterspout drownings

Here, we see a picture of a waterspout over the waters of Lake Michigan near Chicago. The strong winds contributed to the drownings of three people this weekend. (Instagram / Shekesha Moss)

As you look out at Lake Michigan, whether it be from our Sheboygan, Wisconsin office it looks little different than an ocean. But those of us who look at it all the time can sometimes forget that it can be a ferocious beast. A condition we mostly associate with the Pacific ocean, undertow, apparently contributed to three people’s drownings in Lake Michigan this weekend. According to the the Weather Channel the drownings were caused by high winds and waves.  Several others were rescued from the choppy waters.

A two-person kayak capsized near Grand Haven, MI, located on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan at the mouth of the Grand River, Saturday night. One of the people was able to return to the shore unharmed. The other kayaker was not so lucky. The Coast Guard said it recovered the body of the second kayaker from the waters Saturday night. The man was Sheldon Benson, 23, from Coopersville, MI.

Around 7 p.m., people heard screams for help. People were waiting to come to his aid as he struggled to return to shore. The man was not wearing a life jacket.

In addition to these incidents, two people from Northwest Indiana drowned Saturday afternoon at Miller Beach, a community in the southernmost shore of Lake Michigan, in Gary, IN during the Gary Air Show. The fire department reportedly received a call about a drowning around 2:30 p.m. at the Wells Street Beach, close to the eastern edge of Gary and the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. The victims were Griffith’s Kyle Reibly, 26, and Hobart’s David Alden II, 37.

Reports from the Indiana drowning indicate that the victims were those who attempted to save another swimmer in trouble. It is important to never swim to save another swimmer. The old Boy Scout life saving moniker reach, throw, row and go should always apply in a Great Lakes rescue situation. You would have a better chance of a successful rescue running down the beach to grab a boat than trying to swim out. Don’t make a victim of yourself in a doomed effort to be a hero.

In sum, five people were pulled from the lake in Gary, Indiana. One went to a local hospital where he was in stable condition, and two walked away unharmed. In this case, people were going into the water to rescue two children from drowning.

An additional swimmer was rescued from a beach in Michigan City. The man was about 50 yards off of Washington Park Beach. Lifeguards rescued him by towing him in with a truck. The man is currently recovering at the hospital.

Before the incidents, the National Weather Service issued a beach hazard statement, warning people about the dangerous rip currents and swimming conditions. Authorities warned against going into the water to swim along the lake’s shorelines.

Several photographs were taken of a waterspout over Lake Michigan, which is a rotating column of water formed by a whirlwind occurring over the water.

Even if the person is fit and knows how to swim, swimming during hazardous conditions can be dangerous and result in drownings. There is also a risk of hypothermia which can be fatal when swimming in the lake. It is smart to always carry a life jacket or floating device to stay afloat and save energy. Sometimes people will also misjudge how close the shore is and can drown while trying to swim back to shore. In cases of cold waters, it is best to try to stay afloat or only swim back if you are close to the shore.


Gordon Johnson

Attorney Gordon Johnson is one of the nations leading brain injury advocates. He is Past-Chair of the TBILG, a national group of more than 150 brain injury advocates. He has spoken at numerous brain injury seminars and is the author of some of the most read brain injury web pages on the internet.

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