Officials on July 11 have located the body of an Indiana teenager who went missing while he was swimming in Lake Michigan, according to local reports. Following the discovery, the teen’s mother shared a message of caution to parents in the area so that nobody will find themselves in the same tragic situation.
Ra-Hem Mason, 17, of South Bend, went missing around 7 p.m. at Washington Park in Michigan City on July 6. The teen, a student from Washington High School, had gone underwater and did not resurface, a witness said according to The Associated Press.
A passerby, according to WSBT, noticed the teen’s body near Union Pier in Berrien County around 12:40 p.m. on July 11. The passerby was walking along the beach in Chikaming Township—about 15 miles northeast of Michigan City when he saw the body. Officials from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources identified Ra-Hem’s body.
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The Berrien County Medical Examiner’s Office will make an official determination of the cause of Ra-Hem’s death. He is believed to have accidentally drowned. The autopsy will take place on July 12, according to WSBT.
After officials found Ra-Hem’s body, his mother, Yolanda Mason, recounted to WNDU that she and family members had been praying to find her son.
“Earlier this morning, me and a couple of other members of my family like my daughters and my sons were praying that God would send my son home today,” Yolanda Mason told the NBC-affiliate. “And He did just that.”
No Lifeguards, No Advisory
According to ABC7, no lifeguards were on duty at the time of Ra-Hem’s disappearance. There was also reportedly no swim advisory in place. WGN9 reported that police said lifeguards are staffed on the beach, but only until 6 p.m.
High waves reaching up to five feet and rip currents caused the area to be closed throughout the day, and this prevented divers from searching for his body, but the U.S. Coast Guard was scanning the water via boat and air, the South Bend Tribune reported.
The teen’s father, Matthew Mason, told the South Bend Tribune that his daughter—Ra-Hem’s sister, said to the family that it was not clear that swimming was prohibited at the beach. Ra-Hem was with his sister on the day he disappeared, and they had arrived at the beach in the late afternoon while lifeguards were still present.
“It wasn’t as if they got there and it was roped off and there were signs everywhere saying, ‘don’t go in the water,’” Mason told the paper, adding that his daughter said that the beach was “full of people” and that “it was a regular day at the beach.”
A Mother’s Warning
Yolanda told WNDU that she has a sense of relief upon finding out the news. “My son is not floating in that water anymore. I know he’s not being tossed to and fro anymore,” she said calmly.
She added that Ra-Hem was the “funniest, [most] joyous kid you will ever want to meet” and that he was well respected.
Yolanda said that if her son could hear her, she would say that she loves him and that he’s greatly missed. “I miss my baby,” she told the news station.
Earlier, on July 10, she told WNDU that there should have been more warnings about the dangerous swimming conditions at the beach.
Now that her son’s body has been found, she is warning other parents to “watch your babies” and “don’t go out there when it’s crazy.”
“Don’t think because the water’s doing all this and waving slightly that it’s OK, because it can happen in a split second,” she warned.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.