The drownings of a 6-year-old boy and a teenager in Lake Michigan over the weekend underscore the importance of water safety as warm weather draws more beachgoers, authorities said.
Holland State Park workers warned people on Saturday that Lake Michigan’s water conditions were too dangerous for safe swimming because waves reached as high as 6 feet (1.83 meters), said Sean Mulligan, unit supervisor for Holland State Park.
“Some folks take it seriously and call their loved ones out of the water, and others continue doing what they’re doing,” Mulligan told MLive.com in a report published Tuesday.
Divers pulled 17-year-old Christian Ngabo of Grand Rapids and 6-year-old Iain Rowe of Ferrysburg from the water after they drowned Saturday. Iain’s body was recovered Sunday night, and Ngabo’s was found early Monday morning.
Both drowned after strong rip currents swept them, Ottawa County Sheriff Sgt. Eric Westveer, noting that no one should’ve been swimming under the water conditions.
“The thing about drowning is it’s 100% preventable,” said David Benjamin, executive director of public relations at the Great Lakes Rescue Surf Project.
Benjamin’s organization educates people on water safety. He said most people know how to swim but don’t how to survive in a situation where they’re drowning. He wants people to learn the phrase “Flip, Float and Follow” as a drowning survival strategy.
Swimmers struggling to keep their heads above water should flip on their backs, float to calm themselves and follow —go with rather than resist— the current until they’re able to swim toward the shore.
Westveer encourages people not to go to the beach or swim alone.
“This is big water, and things can happen very quickly,” Westveer said. “We just have to make sure we’re safe.”