Two Swimmers Die, Some Saved From Lake Michigan Waves
Despite the best efforts of beachgoers and emergency personnel, two swimmers drowned in the rough waters of Lake Michigan off Grand Haven City Beach on Aug. 5.
Three more swimmers were hospitalized after being pulled from the water. One is in critical condition; the other two are stable, according to a Facebook statement by Grand Haven Department of Public Safety.
High winds created hazardous swimming conditions, with waves up to 5 feet high at certain parts of Lake Michigan’s eastern shore.
In response to the dangerously high waves and strong currents, the city had to shut down Grand Haven City Beach and Grand Haven State Park for the remainder of the weekend.
Human Chains to Rescue Struggling Swimmers
In several instances beachgoers formed human chains, holding on to one another to prevent the current from sweeping people away as they reached dozens of yards offshore to save struggling swimmers.
The first incident was reported at 12:05 p.m. when beachgoers reported a swimmer thrashing around in the water. Bystanders formed a human chain and managed to reach 64-year-old David Knaffle of Wyoming, Michigan, after about 10 minutes of fighting the current and waves.
An off-duty East Grand Rapids firefighter, five public safety officers, and a park ranger all joined the chain.
By the time rescuers reached Knaffle he was unresponsive. He was transported to North Ottawa Community Health Hospital (NOCH) in Grand Haven. Medical personnel were not able to resuscitate him.
Bunches of Swimmers in Distress
Around 3:20 p.m. beachgoers cooperated to rescue another struggling swimmer, a 46-year-old man from Alto, Michigan. Grand Haven public safety officers (GHDPS) and NOCH paramedics treated the man, who was hospitalized in serious condition.
Over the next half hour five swimmers got into trouble and needed rescuing. Safety officers helped organize several human chains and pulled all five from the water, including a 20-year-old man and a 17-year-old woman from Lake, Michigan, both of whom needed to be hospitalized. They were reported as stable.
One swimmer was not rescued in time. A 20-year-old from Lansing, Michigan, later identified as Jeremiah Diaz, lost his life in the roiling waters.
There were several other reports of swimmers in distress, but by the time emergency personnel could reach the sites, other swimmers had been able to effect rescues.