Compilation of GLSRP TV Interviews
09/23/2020 – MLIVE – Lake Michigan Documentary – The Deadliest Great Lake
Good Morning America – Boater helps rescue toddler stranded on inflatable duck
Inside Edition – Toddler Sobs as He Drifts Out on Lake Michigan on Giant Duck Float
NBC 5 Chicago – Close Call Caught on Cam on Lake Michigan After Toddler on Inflatable Duck Carried Away by Wind – What began as a peaceful day at the lake in Michigan City, Indiana, quickly turned to panic Monday afternoon
07/17/2019 – The Weather Channel – Beachgoers Rescue Kid Who Floated Away – winds blew inflatable duck away from shore toward open water.
Updated 12/31/2021, 10:00 p.m.
297 Water Safety Media Mentions to date in 2021
12/31/2021– The Journal Times – Racine County’s top stories of 2021, No. 1: Five drown in Lake Michigan — RACINE — It was a rare year for drownings. Five people died throughout summer and early fall 2021 in Lake Michigan off of Racine’s shores: 10-year-old girl, a 17-year-old boy, a 14-year-old girl, a 40-year-old man and a 28-year-old man. The Great Lakes Surf Rescue, which tracks deaths in the Great Lakes, reported 83 drownings in 2021.
12/26/2021– Herald Palladium – South Haven proposes beach, pier safety measures – People who swim in Lake Michigan along South haven beaches during hazardous weather conditions could soon be fined for doing so. The proposed ordinance comes on the heels of a Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ decision earlier this year to fine people up to $500 for entering into Lake Michigan at state parks during red flag conditions. The only exception would be for board sport recreational enthusiasts, such as kite boarders, who go into Lake Michigan to surf when waves are high.
11/16/2021 – Rogers Edge – Life ring advocates struggle with Chicago Park District following summer drownings
At a Sept. 8 CPD board meeting, the district reversed its stance on life rings, stating that they would begin a pilot program to install flotation devices along the lakefront by the 2022 swim season.
But other proposed solutions, like water safety stations, were denied. At the same Sept. 8 board meeting, Nadav Shoked, professor of law at Northwestern University, said, “The most obvious legal problem is that the placement of these [safety] stations will render the district vulnerable to a lot of legal liability.”
Halle Quezada witnessed the drowning death of 13-year-old Darihanne Torres in July 2018, after which she co-founded the Chicago Alliance for Waterfront Safety. Working as a member of the city’s Chicago Water Safety Taskforce, Quezada became well acquainted with the CPD’s legal liability concerns.
According to Quezada, the CPD’s concerns over legal liability cloud its own mission statement, which calls for the safe maintenance of all parks and facilities.
Of legal liability concerns, Quezada said, “Suddenly you have the park district not working towards its core values, not working towards what it promises the public, and not working to protect people, but working to protect the public body, which is whatever makes the lawyer’s job easier.”
Leslie Perkins, a representative for Alderwoman Maria Hadden of the 49th Ward, stated that the CPD’s focus on legal liability could be counterproductive. Perkins said, “Liability could be created by knowing there is a potential solution to this issue that they chose not to pursue.”
Facing public backlash, the CPD installed two life rings around Pratt Pier on Sept. 10. However, citing the CPD’s history, Quezada and other advocates worry about the district following through with the rest of its proposed pilot program to install flotation devices.
A wrongful death lawsuit filed by Cisneros’ mother, Maria Diaz, on September 16 echoes these concerns. Among other allegations, the lawsuit says that the CPD promised, and failed, to install 140 water rescue stations along the lakefront prior to her son’s death.
Additionally, because of her time working with the CPD on the Chicago Water Safety Task Force, Quezada knows that the district is well aware of the severity of drowning deaths in Chicago.
Quezada said, “We have poured over the data, and we know that the pier where Miguel drowned has the highest drowning incidence in all of Chicago. And they chose to put their blinders on. If you want to hold him [Cisneros] responsible for not knowing better, then you have to hold the CPD responsible because they did know better. And they did nothing.”
Regardless of the future of the CPD’s pilot program for life rings, Quezada said that there are also other solutions that the CPD is not considering.
Firstly, she emphasized the need for increased public education, including information about the dangers of Lake Michigan, how to avoid drowning, and what to do in a drowning emergency. According to Quezada, public education could be implemented in schools, park district classes, and through PSAs on hotel televisions.
For Quezada, it’s a simple solution that could yield real results. She said, “More school-aged children die each year from drowning than they do from fires, active shooters, tornadoes, and earthquakes combined. We have drills for all those things in school, so let’s have a water safety drill too.”
Quezada also proposed a solution to the CPD’s lifeguard shortage, stating that universities and other campuses can partner with the CPD to house non-local lifeguards for a summer. She also suggested partnering with the city to give points on the Chicago Fire Department entry exam for years served as a lifeguard.
But the CPD is looking into other options too. At their September 8th board meeting, they stated that they are considering restricting access to areas like Pratt Pier that are deemed high-risk to swim. However, Perkins stated that the 49th Ward is not currently aware of any such plans.
Alderwoman Hadden’s office also proposed improved safety signage in multiple languages as well as numbered poles on the beaches, which would make it easier for witnesses to report their exact location in the event of a drowning.
But more than anything, advocates agree that water safety starts with life rings. Quezada is confident that a life ring would have prevented Cisneros’ death, saying “He was calling for help meters from the pier, You can throw a life ring meters.”
Advocates like Quezada continue to push the CPD for improved water safety in Rogers Park and across the city. She encourages people to get involved with the Chicago Alliance for Waterfront Safety as well as the Great Lakes Surf Project.
More than anything, Quezada asserts that anybody is capable of creating change in their community. Whether it’s water safety or another issue, she said, “You don’t need to wait for someone to do something. If you care about something, you can do it yourself.”
For more information about waterfront safety and how to get involved, readers are encouraged to visit the following websites:
10/16/2021 – Chicago’s Friends of the Parks – The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, Halle Quezada, Jessica Leon, Maria Diaz, and Noreen Heron received the Friends of the Parks “Very Important Volunteer (VIP) Award” for Advocacy for its work advocating Life Rings on the Chicago lakefront.
10/15/2021 – WZZM 13 – Body of 18-year-old recovered from Lake Michigan
10/15/2021 – Fox 17 – Nonprofit stresses water safety education after tragedy at Pere Marquette
10/08/2021 – ABC 13 – Muskegon’s beach parking fees, tickets bring in $1M in just second year
In 2020 the city collected around $500,000, which was well beyond what the city projected for year one of paid parking.
“It was very busy in May and June, it peaked in July and only slowed down a little in August,” said Peterson. “There were weekends in September that brought in $30,000.”
Some of the revenue collected in 2020 is paying to replace old playground equipment at two non-beach parks in the city. The equipment has been ordered and should be instilled next spring.
Paid parking at the beach is enforced seven days a week at Pere Marquette Park from May 15 to Sept.15.
Non-residents pay $20 for a season pass or $7 daily Monday-Thursday and $10 Friday-Sunday.
“There were plenty of days where the parking was full. I think there’s still opportunity down there to add some more parking on the south side of the concession stand,” said Peterson. “If we get more parking down there in that area we could see revenue go up quite a bit.”
10/03/2021 – Great Lakes Echo – Capital News Service – Beach safety enforcement: too much or too little?
10/01/2021 – Spartan News Room – Beach safety enforcement: too much or too little? – MICHIGAN vs. MICHIGAN –
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) wants to sign an order that would allow them to enforce “No Swimming” when Red Flags are flying at beaches.
The State of Michigan wants to sign a Bill that would forbid the DNR from enforcing the Red Flag Swim Ban.
So we have all of this political theater going on over the last 4 months over an issue, The Beach Flag System, which either way it goes, does very little to save lives on Lake Michigan beaches in Michigan.
Using the Beach Flag System without lifeguards is absolutely, 100% doing it wrong according to widely approved and commonly accepted water Safety Best Practices for open water surf beaches.
And the way the DNR Order is currently written, it would give the DNR power to enforce the swim ban when wave heights reach 8 feet.
FYI: most Lake Michigan drownings that happen during wave activity happen during moderate wave activity of 2′ to 5′; i.e. Yellow Flag conditions that are approaching Red Flag conditions.
The State of Michigan states that “the department (DNR) shall not enforce a rule to prohibit an individual from entering a body of water from state managed land because of temporary conditions of waves or currents.”
“When a drowning would happen, the DNR’s No. 1 comment to the media was that red flags were flying and people ignored the warning,” Benjamin said. “Our response is that red flags were not enforced and there were hundreds of other people in the water.”
Benjamin said the lack of uniformity causes confusion.
“For some places, a red flag just means high surf. For others, it means no swimming,” Benjamin said. “If it does mean no swimming, there’s no enforcement of it.”
Benjamin said the beach flag system is a tool for lifeguards to use and not a replacement for a lifeguard.
“Lifeguards save lives, and all of this is just wasting time and taxpayers money.” Benjamin said. “Now you’ve got state legislation talking about the flag system, but what they’re really talking about is that it’s being used incorrectly.”
Both pieces of legislation distract from necessary beach safety improvements, he said.
“I appreciate that the DNR is working to create some kind of swim ban during red flag conditions, although it needs some critiquing,” Benjamin said. “But now we have the state legislature that’s going to forbid them from doing anything.
“We need to get everybody on the same page here,” he said.
MI DNR BILL UPDATE – HOUSE BILL NO. 5342
September 23, 2021, THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF MICHIGAN ENACT:
The department shall not promulgate or enforce an order or issue or enforce a rule to prohibit an individual from entering a body of water from state managed land because of temporary conditions of waves or currents.
09/27/2021 – Wood TV 8 – South Haven beach safety flag program ends, SHAES had no rescues
09/27/2021 – WSJM – SHAES Closes A Safe 2021 Beach Season – SHAES thanked several organizations — including Bronson Safe Kids, Apple Insurance, City Hall, and the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project — for helping to keep the community safe.
09/27/2021 – WWMT – Beach flags taken down for the season in South Haven
09/26/2021 – Herald Pallidium – “Police, city officials review impact of DNR swimming restrictions”
THE DNR RED FLAG ORDER:
The Director of the Department of Natural Resources orders the following:
5.1 (6) State parks and recreation areas – A person shall not do any of the following:
(6) Enter the water when wave height is in excess of 8 feet. — Use a state managed beach area, or knowingly allow, for the purpose of entry into the water, when entry is prohibited by signage and/or communication by a department employee due to a human health and safety risk, including, but not limited to, contamination, unsafe debris washing ashore, rescue/recovery efforts, severe weather event identified from the National Weather Service, or identified wave height in excess of 8 feet.
This order needs a lot more explained.
The majority of drownings that occur at swimming beaches during the summer months and during waves and dangerous currents activity, happen during moderate wave activity of 2′ to 5′; i.e. Yellow Flag approaching Red Flag conditions.
The way the order is written, entering water is prohibited when water conditions “identified wave height in excess of 8 feet.”
So how and when will this be utilized?
09/23/2021 – Chicago Tribune – Surfers converge on Lake Michigan as fall brings high winds and big waves: ‘It’s kind of a lifestyle.’
09/23/2021 – Chicago Sun-Times – ‘A cheap and easy way to save lives’ — Controversy over whether the Chicago Park District should deploy life buoys skips over whether they do much good.
The Fire Department, however, says the rings save lives.
“Yes they do,” said CFD spokesman Larry Langford, who has been around. “I know they have been used from vessels and bridges.”
Halle Quezada, co-founder of Chicago Alliance for Waterfront Safety, is an enthusiastic supporter.
“They definitely are several saves in Chicago every year,” she said. “We do see them happening.”
She also corrected one misconception about life rings. The idea is not just to fling them at a drowning person.
“Life rings also protect the rescuer,” she said. Here she touched upon an all-too familiar situation: a swimmer is in distress, someone on the shore goes in after them — and also drowns. The rings are meant to be grabbed by the person going in.
“Maybe they don’t get it to the person they’re trying to save,” Quezada said. “But they save the person compelled to get into the water, so you don’t have multiple casualties.”
She put me in touch with Matthew Lipinski, a nurse anesthetist from Logan Square, who was at a beach north of Traverse City, Michigan last month with his two daughters when he saw a rip current — he’s a certified scuba instructor.
He was just warning other parents when he saw a 79-year-old woman on a pool noodle get in trouble because of the currents. As well as her daughter, trying to rescue her. And a third person attempting to help.
“There were two life rings with lines set up,” he said. “I grabbed one life ring with line, and used the rip current to get out to the 79-year-old.”
He has no doubt about the rings’ usefulness.
“Without that life ring there, there would have been a horrible outcome for probably everyone involved,” Lipinski said, noting that the only reason the rings were there was that the mother of a teen who drowned at that beach in 2012 had lobbied for them.
“Life rings are a cheap and easy way to save lives,” he said. “They’re needed along the lakeshore of Chicago. Lake Michigan is underestimated. It’s actually a very treacherous body of water, and anything that can be done to make it safer should be employed.”
09/22/2021 – NBC – Dangerously High Waves Expected on Lake Michigan as City Begins to Install Life Rings – With at least 14 people having drowned in the lake so far this year, Chicago officials are beginning to install new life rings in both swimming and no-swim areas along the lakefront. Those rings are going up even after swimming season came to an end in the city on Labor Day, with red flags posted at all city beaches.
09/21/2021 – Chicago Tribune – Officials warn that Lake Michigan beaches are closed to swimming, as Chicago Park District says it has ordered hundreds of life rings for pilot program – Williams also offered updates on the Park District’s life ring pilot program. Both sanctioned and unsanctioned swim locations will be part of the life ring pilot program, he said. He pointed to a life ring the Park District placed on the Margaret T. Burroughs Beach and another on the nearby 31st Street Pier. The pier is an unauthorized swim location. “We said ‘pilot,’ but let’s just say we’re doing a flight program, meaning it’s already taken off,” Williams said Tuesday. He said the Park District had ordered hundreds of life rings, but the agency’s vendor had reported a delay on supplies. “As soon as we get them in, we plan on installing them,” he said, adding that the agency’s ultimate goal was to be ready for the 2022 beach season.
09/21/2021 – WTTW – Swim Season Is Over. Officials Warn Chicagoans Not To Trifle With Lake Michigan – The Chicago Park District recently began installing life rings along the lakefront after advocates spent years campaigning for the safety devices. The district had resisted deploying the life rings on the grounds they would encourage people to enter the water at unsanctioned locations such as piers. But the drowning death of 19-year-old Miguel Cisneros on Aug. 22 off Pratt pier galvanized public support for the rings. What had been announced as a pilot program for the life rings has since “taken flight,” according to Alonzo Williams, the district’s chief programming officer. Several rings have already been installed and hundreds more are on order, though the vendor has notified the district of supply chain delays, Williams said. Once they arrive, the devices will be placed at both authorized and unauthorized swimming locations, a reversal of the district’s previous plan to only put them at sanctioned swim sites.
09/17/2021 – Holland Sentinel – DNR will move forward with ‘red flag’ swimming ban at state parks next year, surfers exempt
Under the amendment — which Eichinger still has yet to officially sign, according to a DNR spokesperson — people will still be allowed to enter the water on red flag days for activities like surfing and wake boarding, just not swimming. The rationale behind allowing water sports to still take place is that surfers and others are tethered to a board or other floatable device.
“Surfrider Foundation supports the state’s objective of drowning prevention, and is pleased that the state has seen fit to amend its order to help achieve this objective while trying to minimize access impacts to capable water-people,” said Sarah Damron, Great Lakes Manager for Surfrider Foundation, in a statement.
09/17/2021 – Shoreline Media – Spectrum Health Ludington Hospital, Life EMS partner with area agencies for life jacket loaner stations
09/16/2021 – WWMT – Michigan DNR director plans to sign order to restrict swimming when deemed dangerous [Red Flag Conditions]
The order would restrict entry into Lake Michigan at DNR operated beaches under several conditions including:
–When wave heights are identified in excess of 8 feet
Two swimmers drowned this summer at state park beaches in West Michigan. Both occurred during red flag conditions, with waves below 8 feet in height. Victims included:
8/22/21: Grand Rapids man dies while swimming at Holland State Park
9/05/21: Chicago-area man drowns during Saugatuck Dunes State Park visit
Dave Benjamin, the executive director and co-founder of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue project, believed the order wouldn’t make much of a difference curbing drownings if the DNR waits until wave heights reach 8 feet to restrict swimming.
“The majority of dangerous currents, drownings happening on the great lakes is moderate wave activity of 2 to 5 feet, which is yellow flag conditions leading into red flag conditions,” Benjamin said.
A water safety expert, Benjamin helps to lead water safety presentations and trainings across the Great Lakes region. He advocated for the return of a lifeguard program on DNR operated beaches.
Once formally signed, the order will officially go into effect on or after May 1, 2022.
09/20/2021 – Patch – 21-Year-Old Drowns, 3 People Rescued At Evanston Beach
09/17/2021 – US News & World Report – Chicago Woman Sues Park District Over Son’s Lake Drowning
09/17/2021 – Bridge Michigan Magazine – Michiganders to face tickets next spring for swimming in dangerous waves – “The new rules won’t apply to surfers, kiteboarder and boogie boarders, so long as they follow “commonly accepted safety rules and procedures.” – Dave Benjamin, a co-executive director of the Rescue Project, called DNR’s new policy a good step, but no substitute for taking additional steps to make sure popular beaches are closely monitored by trained lifeguards.”
09/17/2021 – Holland Sentinel – MI DNR signs order to Starting May 1, 2022, visitors at Michigan’s state parks will not be allowed to swim on “red flag” days, or days when water and wave conditions are considered to be most dangerous. Recently, safety rescues at Great Lake beaches have occurred at times when the “Red Flag” is flying indicating that wave height is 3-5 feet, or higher, lake conditions are high risk and dangerous.
09/15/2021 – Univision – “Que otra mamá no sienta el dolor que yo siento”, familia de Miguel Cisneros demanda a Chicago
09/15/2021 – CBS 2 – Mother Filing Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against Park District After 19-Year-Old Son Miguel Cisneros Drowns
09/15/2021 – ABC 7 – Mother suing Chicago Park District after son’s drowning in Lake Michigan off Pratt Pier
09/15/2021 – Fox 32 – Chicago Park District sued by family of man who drowned off Rogers Park pier
09/15/2021 – The News-Star – Wrongful death Lawsuit filed in Pratt Pier drowning
09/13/2021 – Chicago Tribune – Chicago Park District reverses position and installs life ring at Rogers Park pier where 19-year-old drowned
“Right now, that lone ring on Pratt Pier does not make me happy,” Maria Diaz said Monday.
Diaz said she was still calling for life rings to be installed throughout the city’s entire lakefront, and she hoped the Park District would install life rings in other unsanctioned swimming areas. “This is more than Miguel,” she added.
The CPD pilot program to install life rings at some locations along Chicago’s lakefront but would only apply to areas already deemed “safe to swim” — unlike the pier where Cisneros died.
On Monday, Lemons wrote in an email to the Tribune that “sanctioned and unsanctioned locations” would be considered as part of the agency’s life ring pilot program. She did not comment specifically on the decision to place a life ring at Pratt Pier.
Louise LeBourgeois, a longtime Rogers Park resident and one of the neighbors who had placed a life ring at the pier, echoed Diaz’s concern.
“We’re waiting to see what else the Park District is going to do,” LeBourgeois said. “Yes, it’s good that there’s a life ring on Pratt Pier, but it’s just a drop in the bucket of what the citizens of the city of Chicago deserve and need.”
09/13/2021 – The Journal Times – Chicago resists putting life rings at risky lake piers, unlike what groups in Racine have done – In the City of Racine, the opposite approach has been taken following four deaths this past summer. Last month, several local groups worked with the city’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department to place 12 life jackets and 150 throw rings on North Beach (where it is usually safe to swim and where lifeguards are posted during the summer) as well as at Zoo Beach — where it is often unsafe to swim and where there aren’t lifeguards. In 2019, just days after life rings were placed at South Pier, one of the rings was used to help save a woman’s life. Swimming along piers and other structures in the lake is considered especially dangerous.
09/10/2021 – The Goshen News – Chicago resists putting life rings at risky lake piers
09/11/2021 – Greater Milwaukee Today – Chicago resists putting life rings at risky lake piers
09/10/2021 – WLS 7 Chicago – Chicago Park District to install life rings along lakefront at approved swimming areas
09/10/2021 – CBS 2 Chicago – Park District to Install Some Life Rings On Lakefront, But Safety Advocates Say Pilot Program Falls Short
“This pilot program will do absolutely nothing to address the problem that we’re having,” said Dave Benjamin from Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.
But the small steps towards change Friday bring little comfort to those same advocates, like Dave Benjamin from Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.
“’Swim sanctioned beaches’ is a code word for lifeguard beaches. The majority of the drowning incidents we’re having are not at the lifeguarded beaches. They’re along the Lakefront Trail, as well as the piers,” Benjamin said in a zoom interview with CBS 2’s Marissa Parra. “This pilot program will do absolutely nothing to address the problem that we’re having.”
Benjamin has long documented the dangers of the Great Lakes. One by one, he has documented every drowning in Lake Michigan since 2011, noting details relayed to him by both family and police notes.
“We’ve been advocating for life rings along the Great Lakes for 10 years. People saw Miguel struggling in the currents. They were six feet away from him and they had nothing to throw to him,” Benjamin said. “[This announcement] is an insult and injury to his family, they’re livid, I’m livid.”
Kelly shared his condolences to the Cisneros family.
“I will take their words, but it means nothing if it’s not followed by actions,” said Cisneros’ mother, Maria Diaz.
The past few hours – let alone the past few weeks – have been a whirlwind for the mother.
Amid trying to arrange funeral arrangements for her son, she became a loud voice in the fight to bring life rings all along Chicago’s lakefront — and she means all along the lake.
“They’re only agreeing to that pier and beaches where lifeguards are, which isn’t what we asked for,” said Diaz, glancing at photos of her son behind her. “It’s too late for my son to be helped, but I want other people to be helped.”
The park district’s plan also includes increasing “no swimming” signage, and better swimming and water safety education, even broaching the idea of restricting access to parts of the lakefront if need arises.
Kelly made clear on Friday his reluctance to bring life rings to areas where swimming isn’t sanctioned– places like Pratt Pier.
“We’re in the life safety business, and teach-kids-to-swim business,” he said, opposing “anything that gives a semblance of comfort to going in that water where it says do not swim.”
Benjamin recoiled when he heard Kelly’s words.
“In the last 12 months alone, there have been 9 drowning incidents in Chicago along the lake, where life rings could have saved a life,” he said. “These are human lives.”
Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th) said he’s moving forward with an order to place Chicago Park District tax increment financing requests on hold until the district agrees to broaden life ring locations beyond manned beaches.
“Families of drowning victims want the entire lakefront protected, not just select locations. I intend to move forward with this order,” Lopez said.
More drastic legal measures aren’t out of the question for Cisneros’ family either.
“We’ll do what needs to be done,” Diaz said. “I will go all the way until I get what Chicagoans deserve, which is safety on the lakefront.”
09/10/2021 – Chicago Tribune – Chicago Park District plans life ring pilot program but not at pier where teen drowned, angering Rogers Park residents — On Aug. 22, Miguel Cisneros drowned after jumping off Pratt Pier in the Rogers Park neighborhood for a swim. There was no life ring on the pier. His mom, Maria Diaz, was set to drive Cisneros to New York this month to get him set up for the first day of his sophomore year. Diaz wants life rings to be installed at piers and beaches across the city’s lakefront. “I’m infuriated with the Park District,” she said Wednesday.
09/10/2021 – News Times – Chicago resists putting life rings at risky lake piers
09/10/2021 – ABC 7 Chicago – Chicago Park District to install life rings along lakefront in effort to prevent drownings [PLEASE NOTE: The Chicago Park District (CPD) is only going to install liferings on Pratt Pier and “Sanctioned Swimming Areas” aka Lifeguarded Beaches. All other piers, breakwalls, and the 26 mile trail will not have liferings.] And On September 8, 2021, the CPD brought in Water Safety Expert, Gerry Dworkin, to speak at the monthly Board of Commissioners Meeting. In the Zoom Meeting Video Dworkin stated, “If they [liferings] are placed in a guarded area, lifeguards are not going to use that equipment. They have other pieces of equipment readily available to them [lifeguard Rescue Tubes or Rescue Cans] that they are trained in and effectively use on a regular basis. …But to have it from a beach, it’s very difficult to deploy. Very difficult to manage.” So then why is CPD going to pilot liferings at lifeguarded beaches. This goes agains the statements of its very own imported water safety expert.
09/10/2021 – WDRB News – Chicago resists putting life rings at risky lake piers – “I’m infuriated,“ said Maria Diaz, whose son, Miguel Cisneros, drowned last month in the Rogers Park neighborhood. “Don’t they have kids; aren’t they mothers, fathers? And how would they feel if (it were) their son?” Diaz said. “Because, believe me, you never think about this until it hits home. And it can happen to anyone.” The Chicago Park District said it plans to put life rings along the Lake Michigan waterfront but only in areas that are considered safe to swim, upsetting the mother of a college student who drowned off a pier. At least 77 people have drowned this year in the Great Lakes, including 35 in Lake Michigan, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.
09/09/2021 – Chicago Tribune – Editorial: Mayor Lightfoot, demand safety equipment now for Chicago’s dangerous lakefront
09/08/2021 – WTTW 11 – Park District Responds to Calls for Lakefront Life Rings With Plan To Cut Off Access to ‘No Swim’ Locations
CHICAGO PARK DISTRICT IN REFERENCE TO LIFERINGS
“When we do put up certain measures, you are increasing your risk of liability by representing that those areas … have been determined to be swimmable or usable areas,” said the Park District’s Timothy M. King.
“From a legal standpoint, the best thing to do right now is nothing, because that’s the only way to not take on that increased risk of liability.”
“From a legal standpoint, the best thing to do right now is nothing…”
‘Doing nothing’ contributed to the death of Miguel Cisneros, 19, on August 22, 2021.
Miguel was seen swimming in the water near the pier. Several people were on the pier. Miguel was seen struggling. Miguel was seen and heard calling for help. Miguel was 6 feet from the wall where people were standing, and he was struggling in a structural current.
If the people on the pier had a lifering, Miguel would be alive today.
Instead they watched him drown.
Liferings do not influence people to swim in areas that are not designated as swim areas. Just as seatbelts and airbags do not influence people to drive recklessly.
Liferings are for emergency use.
In Chicago, people are already swimming in areas that are not designated as swimming areas.
June 2020, Dan O’Conor was anxious about the pandemic. He decided to jump into Lake Michigan. The next day he did it again, and again the next day. A whole year’s worth of plunges — including the winter.
O’Connor jumped into Lake Michigan 365 days in a row. He jumped in where swimming was prohibited. Where was the park district?
He jumped in 365 days AND there were no Liferings there to influence him into the water.
A group of teens recently posted a video of themselves on the bike path between Oak Street Beach and North Avenue Beach on Facebook. They were flying off a 10′ ramp and doing double backflips with their bikes and landing in Lake Michigan.
AND there were no Liferings there to influence them into the water.
The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) wrote a book – A guide to coastal public rescue equipment.
The aim of the guide is to help beach operators make better-informed decisions about their Public Rescue Equipment (PRE) requirements that result from a risk assessment.
On p. 30, of “PRE for man-made coasts”:
Public rescue equipment is installed in coastal areas to allow members of the public to perform a rescue when all other options are exhausted.
Where to use the large-sized life ring:
If there is a straight drop between the rescuer and the casualty, with little or no throwing needed, then a large, SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea) approved, life ring can be used.
Harbour walls, piers and breakwaters are examples of suitable locations for large-sized life rings.
On p. 34, Basic principles for positioning PRE:
- Located at intervals determined by visitor numbers and risk assessment (where the greatest risk of immersion is likely to be).
- Clearly visible and close to the location of the hazard.
- Location should be easily accessible and not at risk of being submerged by the tide (or storm surge).
- If feasible, it is advisable to locate PRE near access points to assist casualty recovery.
- Located between a coastal access point and the hazard (to encourage people to notice the PRE while passing towards the hazard area).
- Positioned at an optimum height for ease of access. A fixing height of between 1.2m and 1.5m (from floor to centre of equipment) is usually appropriate.
- If beach safety signage is displayed, then it may be appropriate to locate PRE nearby. It is beneficial to have a safety area that incorporates signage and PRE.
The Chicago Park District ‘Doing nothing’ has cost many lives over the years. It is time for them to do the right thing.
09/08/2021 – The Detroit Free Press – 2 men drown in Lake Michigan in Michigan over holiday weekend
09/08/2021 – The Holland Sentinel – Weekend drownings prompt reminder to still take water safety seriously after summer ends – Benjamin is hopeful lifeguards become regular at state and other beaches. He also mentioned an order from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to impose fines for beachgoers who try swim on red flag days at state parks. The proposal was originally slated for approval in August, but a DNR commission tabled its approval until its Sept. 16 meeting. The order, as currently written, would not apply to surfers and other water sports participants hoping to take advantage of higher wave crests.
09/08/2021 – Block Club Chicago – Drowning Victim’s Mother Calls For Life Rings, Safety Measures At Chicago Beaches — Rogers Park residents have tried to take measures into their own hands, adding life rings to a local pier — but the Park District removed them.
09/07/2021 – CBS 2 Chicago – Vigil Held For Lake Michigan Drowning Victim Miguel Cisneros As Mother Issues Another Plea For Life Rings on Lake Michigan
09/07/2021 – WGN – Grieving mother demands Chicago install life rings at all beaches, piers after son drowns
09/07/2021 – ABC 7 – Rogers Park drowning victim memorialized as life ring battle continues with Chicago Park District
09/07/2021 – Fox 17 – Drowning deaths down from 2020 so far this year – “The Michigan Department of Natural Resources does not approve of having lifeguards on its beaches,” Benjamin said. “They use a flag system. The flag system is a tool for lifeguards to use not a replacement for lifeguards. The flag system has been failing swimmers, you know, for multiple years now.” While Benjamin believes lifeguards are the solution, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is looking at other options. They currently use flags to warn beachgoers and had a recent discussion of potentially fining people $500 for swimming when the red flags are out. “We know what the problem is,” Benjamin said. “We know what the solution is. It’s time to implement the solution and be done with this, because, you know, it’s just, the standard of care, the duty to protect the public that’s coming.”
09/07/2021 – FOX 32 – Dozens gather to remember Chicago man who drowned in Lake Michigan
09/06/2021 – NBC 5 Chicago – Chicago Man Drowns at Michigan State Park Sunday, Group Says
09/06/2021 – WZZM – Even after Labor Day, take precautions when out on Lake Michigan – 77 people have drowned in the Great Lakes this year. 35 of those were in Lake Michigan.
09/04/2021 – WWMT – Dangerous swimming conditions continue Labor Day Weekend on Lake Michigan – This educational video presented by the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project explains the different currents that can form on Lake Michigan, as well as what you should do if you’re caught in one.
09/03/2021 – CBS 2 Chicago – Mother Fights To Get Life Rings On Chicago’s Lakefront After Son Drowns Near Pratt Pier – If flotation devices had been available, lives would have been saved,” said Maria Diaz, whose [son] died almost two weeks ago. Facing heat, the city’s park district repainted the “No Swimming” stenciling along the pier this week. [BUT NO LIFERINGS!] The family is holding a vigil for Miguel next Tuesday at Tobey Prinz Beach Park at 7:30. The Park District did not respond to request for comment Friday.
09/03/2021 – WILX – Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project working to prevent drownings
09/03/2021 – WHBL – WISCONSIN DNR URGES SAFETY ON WATERS THIS WEEKEND
09/03/2021 – We Are Green Bay – Great Lakes drowning statistics updated ahead of Labor Day Weekend – “We don’t want your family fun day at the beach to turn into a tragedy. Please be water safety hypervigilant this weekend,” said Dave Benjamin GLSRP Executive Director. There have been 1,019 Great Lakes drownings since 2010. The GLSRP posted its Great Lakes Dangerous Currents explainer video on their YouTube channel.
09/02/2021 – CBS 2 Chicago – After Son Drowns Off Pratt Pier In Rogers Park, Mother To Meet With Park District To Push For Life Rings On Chicago Lakefront
09/02/2021 – Loyola Phoenix – Residents and Leaders Criticize Chicago Park District For “Not Doing Enough” To Prevent Drowning
09/01/2021 – Block Club Chicago – ‘Dangerous’ Rogers Park Pier Gets New Warning Signs, But A Second Life Ring Is Removed – Following neighbor complaints, park-sanctioned signs have been installed at the base of the pier near the beach and at the lighthouse at Tobey Prinz Beach Park.
09/01/2021 – ABC 7 – 2nd life ring installed by residents along Chicago lakefront after Rogers Park drowning removed – Miguel Cisneros Chicago: 19-year-old had full-ride to Columbia prior to Lake Michigan drowning
08/31/2021 – WGN 9 Chicago – Park district, residents tangle over life rings after 19-year-old Ivy League student drowns at Prinz Beach
08/31/2021 – ABC 7 Chicago – Family demands life rings at Chicago piers after son’s drowning
09/01/2021 – ABC 7 Chicago – Residents install 2nd life ring along Chicago lakefront after Rogers Park drowning, 1st removed – Miguel Cisneros Chicago: 19-year-old had full-ride to Columbia prior to Lake Michigan drowning
08/31/2021 – NBC 5 Chicago – Mom Pushes for Safety Devices Along Lake Michigan After Son’s Drowning
08/31/2021 – Block Club Chicago – After A 19-Year-Old Drowned Near Rogers Park Beach, A Neighbor Installed A Life Ring. The Park District Removed It – Rogers Park neighbors have been calling on the Park District to install life rings at beaches for years to no avail. “Here we are, another summer and more drowning victims.”
08/31/2021 – WTTW – Rogers Park Alderwoman Asks Neighbors to Put Pressure on Park District After Lakefront Life Ring Removed
08/31/2021 – Fox 32 – Chicago Park District takes down safety ring put up by Rogers Park resident after drowning
08/30/2021 – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Lake Michigan swimming conditions to be dangerous Tuesday, Wednesday with high waves, strong currents
08/25/2021 – Windsor Star – University of Windsor profs study staggering economic impact of Great Lakes drownings
08/24/2021 – ABC 7 Chicago – Lake Michigan drowning, water rescues renew calls for life rings along Chicago beaches
08/24/2021 – Fox News – After another drowning, Chicago woman pushes for life rings at beaches to save lives – “I’ve been trying for three years now, working directly with the park district, talking to them, sending letters, having petitions circulated,” Quezada said. Quezada says she’s happy to be a thorn in the park district’s side if it will end up saving lives. “Bystanders are put in this position where you either watch someone die,” Quezada said. “Or you risk your own life trying to help. And that shouldn’t happen. We should have something we can throw to them.” But the park district does not put safety flotation rings at neighborhood beaches, despite a park district sign advising people to throw a ring in the water in case there’s an emergency. “It’s really infuriating,” Quezada said. “We get, ‘we have signage so we don’t have life rings.’ Or we get, ‘well we will have to maintain them or we will be held liable if one’s not there.’” “It is such a no-brainer that in a weekend we had a couple dozen elected officials sign letters of support to the park district as well,” Quezada said. “This is easy. It’s obvious, but it’s also morally imperative.”
08/24/2021 – Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service – OPINION: Before this summer, I never truly respected the terrifying power of Lake Michigan. Then my 14-year-old great-niece drowned. Lily and a friend had gone into the waters of North Beach in Racine, and Lily got pulled away by a strong current that just days earlier had taken the lives of two others. According to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, there have been  total Great Lakes drownings this year, with  of those occurring in Lake Michigan. This is a little less than half of the total number from 2020 in which there were108 drownings with more than half occurring in Lake Michigan.
08/23/2021 – Fox 6 Milwaukee – Racine drowning of man who saved kids tragic, preventable, experts say
08/22/2021 – Fox 32 Chicago – Man drowns in Lake Michigan after jumping from pier
08/22/2021 – NBC 5 Chicago – CFD Divers Pull Man From Lake Michigan Amid High Waves, Strong Currents – According to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, 1,009 people have drowned in the Great Lakes since 2010. Of those, 63 have occurred in 2021, and 29 of them were reported in Lake Michigan.
08/19/2021 – Journal Sentinel – A 71-year-old Mequon man drowned in Lake Michigan, Port Washington police say — There have been at least 24 drownings in Lake Michigan this year, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.
08/13/2021 – Detroit News – Metroparks looks to boost swim programs to stem drowning deaths — A southeast Michigan park system wants to find out what would help more people learn to swim in an effort to reduce drownings that have spiked in the Great Lakes.
08/12/2021 – Wood TV 8 – DNR expected to OK red flag swimming ban in September – The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is expected to ban swimming at state beaches during dangerous water conditions at its September meeting. The order does make an exception for surfers. It also states that surfers who do enter the water do so at their own risk.
08/13/2021 – WZZM – DNR delays decision on red flag swimming ban — Decisions are yet to be made about the potential for a swimming ban while red flags fly. Thursday, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) was set to decide on a proposal banning swimming during dangerous lake conditions. However, that decision was tabled until further notice to allow for further public review of the order. The order does make exceptions for surfers, kite boarders and water boarders. They say rough conditions can be ideal, and they are prepared for the risk. DNR Director Dan Eichinger is expected to make the final decision on the proposal during a meeting in September. If approved, the order will go into effect next year.
08/12/2021 – WLS 7 Chicago – Chicago surfer saves 3 swimmers caught in rip current in Lake Michigan
08/12/2021 – MLIVE – Chicago nurse rescues 3 from rip current at Northern Michigan beach
08/09/2021 – 9 &10 News – Lake Michigan Drownings Increase In 2021, Except at Sleeping Bear Dunes
08/06/2021 – Kenosha News – Kenosha News editorial: Geneva Lake tragedy a reminder about water safety
08/05/2021 – WTTW 11 – Safety Advocates Want Flotation Devices Along the Lakefront. The Park District Isn’t Sold
08/03/2021 – NBC 6 Upper Michigan Source – Michigan DNR proposal could ban swimming at state beaches during dangerous conditions — The proposal is focused on the state’s Lake Michigan beaches downstate with designated swimming areas and flag warning systems.
07/31/2021 – Fox 6 – More Milwaukee County beach lifeguards wanted
07/30/2021 – Fox 17 – Michigan making exceptions to weather-related swim ban
07/30/2021 – CW 7/News Channel 3 – DNR amends order to limit swimming on dangerous days at state park beaches
07/30/2021 – WILX – Exceptions clarified in rough weather swimming ban
07/30/2021 – ABC 57 – Strong currents in Lake Michigan make for dangerous swimming, pier conditions
07/30/2021 – CBS Detroit – Michigan Making Exceptions To Weather-Related Swim Ban
07/30/2021 – The Free Press – Our View: Youth: Drowning risk can be reduced
07/30/2021 – Chicago Tribune – Op-ed: Increased lifeguard presence will keep post-pandemic pools and beaches safe – One way to fix the lifeguard shortage: Professionalize lifeguarding and aquatics management so that there is better training, a greater focus on safety and preparation, and concrete expectations for their performance. The CDC also notes that, “lifeguards add to the cost savings in emergency medical care and long-term hospital treatment involving cases of near-drowning and alleviate emotional trauma and social costs to family and friends.”
07/30/2021 – We Are Green Bay – 2021 on pace to reach record high drownings on Lake Michigan.
07/29/2021 – News Talk 1290 – Dave Benjamin – Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project with Ken and Loreena
07/27/2021 – Wisconsin Public Radio – Swimming In The Great Lakes Requires Greater Caution, Officials Say – There Have Been 21 Deaths On Lake Michigan So Far This Year
07/26/2021 – WNDU – Lake Michigan on track to have one the deadliest years for drownings – So, the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project is out teaching water safety to families, hoping to save lives and keep swimmers out of the water on red flag days when the water is dangerous.
07/26/2021 – Fox 2 Detroit – Michigan DNR proposes prohibiting water access on beaches too dangerous to swim in [Surfers, kite surfers, and other extreme water enthusiasts should be exempt from the proposed DNR Ban.]
07/26/2021 – Northwest Indiana Times – Lifeguard wage hike pays off for Michigan City — Starting today, Washington Park will have a full complement of lifeguards. The city earlier this year decided to increase the starting wage for lifeguards to $25 an hour after it struggled to get enough applicants for a full staff. Now, Shinn is establishing relationships with the LaPorte County YMCA and Michigan City Piranhas swim team to recruit lifeguards for future summers.
07/23/2021 – Kenosha News – Kenosha News editorial: Raising lifeguard pay was the right move – The sooner we can get more trained and certified lifeguards and water patrol assistants to our lakes and beaches, the safer they will be. Under the County Board’s proposal, water patrol assistant wages would go from $12 and hour to $14.50 an hour. Those assistants are trained and work with the Sheriff’s Office to ensure water safety on Lake Michigan. Lifeguard pay would rise by about $5 an hour and range from $15.80 to $16.80. That would hopefully boost staffing levels at Fischer Park in the Town of Burlington.
07/20/2021 – WSBT – Officials give safety tips as red flag warnings in place on Lake Michigan
07/20/2021 – Fox 6 – Lake Michigan Beach Hazard Statement, swim risk high
07/20/2021 – Detroit News – Western winds: Beauty for Michigan skies, but danger on beaches
07/20/2021 – Record Patriot – Benzie Aquatic Center promotes World Drowning Prevention Day on July 25
07/16/2021 – The Inertia – Michigan Red Flag Ban Prompts Backlash from Local Surfers and Kiteboarders
07/15/2021 – Chicago Tribune – Lake County defers sheriff’s $770k boat purchase; calls for more information
07/16/2021 – Sandusky Register – Don’t mess with Lake Erie
07/15/2021 – WWMT – Michigan surfers voice concerns over DNR beach access proposal – “Of the 986 drownings in the Great Lakes since 2010, zero have been surfers,” said Dave Benjamin, the co-founder and executive director of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. The non-profit advocates for water safety through education, outreach, and research. A surfer himself and water safety advocate, Benjamin thought an exemption for surfers in the DNR’s proposal should be considered. “Surfers, kite surfers, pro-style boogie boarders should be exempt from this” he said. “These surfers are spending hundreds of hours per year surfing the Great Lakes waves. We know the winds, we know the waves, we know the dangerous currents.”
07/15/2021 – WNDU – Michigan DNR could fine people who swim under red flag warning – There have been 40 confirmed drowning incidents in the Great Lakes this year. Nineteen of those have occurred in Lake Michigan. In an effort to prevent drownings and closely monitor the health and safety of beach visitors, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has proposed a policy to fine swimmers $500 for going into state-managed beach waters under a red-flag warning. 16 News Now has reached out to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources but have yet to hear back. The GLSRP has an educational video on how to navigate the waters of Lake Michigan here: https://youtu.be/71D8Y8YlsRA.
07/15/2021 – Northwest Indiana Times – Michigan City boosts pay to attract job applicants – Faced with an inability to hire enough lifeguards for Washington Park again this summer, Parry raised wages to $25 an hour for lifeguards, $26 hourly for assistant head lifeguards and $27 an hour for the head lifeguard.
07/15/2021 – The Detroit News – Surfers, kite-boarders oppose Michigan’s proposed high-wave swimming ban – The proposed order would prevent people in state parks and recreation areas from exiting “the state managed beach area for the purpose of entry into the water when entry is prohibited by signage and/or communication by a department employee or their designee.”
07/15/2021 – Juliette Films – “Surfers are best equipped to make open water rescues, especially when the [Michigan] beaches don’t have lifeguards.”
07/14/2021 – WSBT – Proposal to ban swimming at Michigan State Parks or ‘red flag’ days – ZERO SURFERS HAVE DROWNED IN THE GREAT LAKES SINCE 2010 – THERE HAVE BEEN NO KNOWN SURFER DROWNINGS BEFOR THAT – The proposed rule would apply to anyone entering the water on state park beach areas. Some surfers think there should be exemptions for them. “Surfers make lots of rescues every year that pretty much go unnoticed and undocumented,” said Benjamin. Dave Benjamin with the Great Lakes Rescue Project says he’s been tracking drownings for more than ten years, and none of them have been surfers. He thinks adding lifeguards to patrol the beaches is the best way to save lives.
07/14/2021 – MLIVE – Michigan DNR proposal would fine people for swimming at beaches during dangerous conditions
07/13/2021 – ABC 8 News – Drownings decreased in Virginia in 2020, but what’s happening in 2021?
07/13/2021 – ABC 57 – Michigan DNR proposes fines for swimming when red flags are up
07/13/2021 – Mix 95.7 – Red Flag Warnings: DNR Looking at Fines For Those In Water
07/13/2021 – Holland Sentinel – Under proposed order, swimming at state parks would be banned on ‘red flag’ days
07/12/2021 – Fox 17 – THURSDAY – MI DNR ORDER TO ENFORCE RED FLAGS – VOICE YOUR OPINIONS – The GLSRP is adamant that waders and swimmers should not be in the water during Red Flag conditions, and that surfers, kite surfers, and other extreme water enthusiasts should be exempt from this order. To date, of the 981+ Great Lakes Drownings since 2010, 0 (ZERO) were surfers or surfer related.
07/12/2021 – WZZM – Close the beaches? DNR amendment could allow beaches to be shut down on red flag days [The GLSRP does support the enforcement of the Beach Flag System for keeping waders and swimmers out of the water during Red Flag days, but we strongly believe that the order should exempt Surfers, Kite Surfers, and other extreme water enthusiasts.] “Really the big picture here, the bottom line,” says Dave Benjamin, “there should be lifeguards on the beaches.”Benjamin runs the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. He says he’s in support of the amendment allowing the DNR to close the beaches, but says it’s not doing enough.
“If you clear one beach, people just go down to the next beach which is farther away from access.” He says lifeguards are the solution the state needs to add. Olsen says lifeguards are an added liability. The state hasn’t had guarded beaches since 1993, saying the public outreach and those tools like the flag system and PSAs are educating the public. “They keep trying to add layers of technology and layers of other tools as a replacement for lifeguards,” Benjamin says. “These items are not replacements for lifeguards.”
Benjamin referenced incidents at Grand Haven State Park where a human chain was formed in an attempt to rescue a drowning boy in 2020 as a reason to have trained lifeguards on the beaches. “Now you’re putting untrained people in the water,” he says. “The water that you’re telling people to stay out of.”
07/12/2021 – WWMT – Michigan DNR could crack down on people ignoring red flag warnings [The GLSRP does support the enforcement of the Beach Flag System for keeping waders and swimmers out of the water during Red Flag days, but we strongly believe that the order should exempt Surfers, Kite Surfers, and other extreme water enthusiasts.]
07/12/2021 – NBC 24 TOLEDO, OH – Great Lakes drownings increase in 2021
07/11/2021 – The Guardian – US News – US records rising number of drownings in lakes, rivers and backyard pools – Rising numbers of drownings are being reported in lakes, rivers, backyard pools and other bodies of inland water across the US this summer, amid factors such as early season severe heatwaves and children having missed out on swimming lessons during the pandemic. Almost three dozen drownings have been reported in the Great Lakes alone in the year up to the Fourth of July holiday weekend, at least 34 compared with 25 in the same period of 2020, according to statistics gathered by the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, a non-profit safety organization. And 2020 had already been a more deadly year on the lakes than 2019.
07/10/2021 – The News-Herald – Great Lakes drowning dangers must be taken seriously | Editorial
07/08/2021 – Post-Tribune – Lake sheriff eyes $770K to replace ‘aged’ boat: ‘This purchase is imperative to Lake County citizens’
07/09/2021 – Michigan Tec – Husky-built Beach Warning System Helps Keep Swimmers Safe
07/09/2021 – The Detroit News – Michigan seeks to ban swimming at state beaches in high-wave conditions
07/08/2021 – Bridge Magazine – People ignore drowning warnings, so Michigan may close Great Lakes beaches – It also comes amid concerns that Great Lakes drownings will set a new record this year, prompting DNR officials to say the red flag warning system is no longer enough to keep people safe. A video on Great Lakes safely was created by The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. Beach hazard risks are updated regularly by the National Weather Service.
07/08/2021 – Lake Superior Magazine – Dangerous Waters: A 20-year-old Twin Cities woman had a close call Wednesday evening after struggling with a rip current on Park Point in Duluth. According to a report by Dan Hanger of Fox21, the woman had gone out into thewater to help her sister, who was floundering in the current. She got her sister to safety, but was torn back into deep water by the rip current.
Swim Safe: Thanks to what appears to be a good conclusion to the close call Wednesday at Park Point, Lake Superior has remained without drownings so far this year. That is not the case for the lower Great Lakes, where the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project has noted 34 drownings compared to 25 this time last year. In Lake Michigan alone, there have been 16 drownings; it is consistently the most likely lake for such deaths. GLSRP has a video explaining rip currents.
07/08/2021 – Patch IL – High Waves, Currents Lead To Lake Michigan Beach Hazard Statement – The National Weather Service warned of life-threatening swimming conditions in Lake Michigan Thursday.
07/07/2021 – WNMU FM – Nonprofit: Number of drownings in Great Lakes jumps in 2021
07/08/2021 – The Alpena News – Water caution urged on Northeast Michigan beaches
07/06/2021 – WRKR 107.7 FM – The Number of Drownings in The Great Lakes is on the Rise — So far there have been 34 drownings in the Great Lakes compared to 25 overall last year. 16 drownings alone happened in Lake Michigan. Just over the 4th of July weekend a man and his friend were walking along a sandbar when it dropped off and he drowned.
07/07/2021 – Record Eagle – Editorial: Lake Michigan drownings increase
07/06/2021 – WXYZ – Nonprofit: Number of drownings in Great Lakes has increased in 2021
07/06/2021 – News Times – Even people who can swim can drown. Here’s what to do if you’re in danger
07/06/2021 – Erie News Now – U.S. Coast Guard Gives Tips After Report That Great Lakes Drownings Are On the Rise
07/06/2021 – CBS Detroit – Number Of Drownings In Great Lakes Jumps In 2021, According To Nonprofit Organization
07/06/2021 – 93.1 WIBC Indianapolis – LAKE MICHIGAN: A COOL PLACE FOR HOOSIERS BUT DEADLIER THIS YEAR THAN LAST
07/06/2021 – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – It won’t be safe to swim in Lake Michigan Tuesday afternoon and evening as high waves, strong currents will make conditions dangerous
07/06/2021 – Market Watch – Great Lakes drownings have jumped in 2021, according to regional safety group – A total of 978 drownings have been reported in the Great Lakes since 2010
07/05/2021 – WWMT – Report: Great Lakes drownings increase in 2021
07/06/2021 – Fox 2 Detroit – Great Lakes drownings trending up in 2021 – More people have drowned in the Great Lakes so far in 2021 than were reported by this time last year, prompting officials to urge swimmers to practice water safety measures. Data collected by the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project shows 32 people have drowned in the Great Lakes as of July 2 compared to 25 by early July in 2020. The 2021 drownings include 15 in Lake Michigan, five in Lake Huron, six in Lake Erie and six in Lake Ontario. The nonprofit is encouraging the “flip, float and follow” drowning survival strategy, which instructs swimmers caught in dangerous currents to prioritize floating and breathing before identifying an exit from the water.
07/05/2021 – Fox 2 Detroit – Drownings are up in the Great Lakes – More people are drowning in the Great Lakes this year. The number of drownings has already exceeded last year’s count.
07/05/2021 – A Healthier Michigan – Great Lakes Beach Safety: What to Know Before You Go
07/05/2021 – FOX 32 CHICAGO – Drowning is the leading cause of death for children, report says — Dave Benjamin, co-founder of Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, talks about how drowning is a leading cause of accidental deaths for children.
07/05/2021 – Canada.com – Great Lakes drowning numbers up over this time last year — The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project annually tracks drownings in the Great Lakes and recently issued a warning about a summer spike in deaths along with the release of its explainer video on dangerous currents. The GLSRP video shows how wind direction creates dangerous currents and explains the effects of onshore, offshore and sideshore winds. It also explains how the flip, float and follow strategy offers the best chance of survival if a swimmer gets caught in a current. A struggling swimmer should flip onto their back to calm down and conserve energy. The video is available on the GLSRP YouTube channel.
07/05/2021 – Michigan NPR – Number of drownings in Great Lakes jumps in 2021
07/05/2021 – ABC 7 CHICAGO – Nonprofit: Number of drownings in Great Lakes jumps in 2021 — The GLSRP released an explainer video last month to help swimmers understand that dangerous currents occur on the Great Lakes. The group emphasized the “flip, float and follow” drowning survival strategy, which instructs swimmers to prioritize floating and breathing before identifying an exit from the water.
07/05/2021 – Chicago Tribune – Nonprofit says number of drownings in Great Lakes jumps in 2021: Illinois man’s body recovered off of Gary beach Monday
07/05/2021 – Fox 17 – Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project video discusses dangerous currents, drowning survival tips — Earlier this summer, the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project released an explainer video about dangerous currents and drownings.
07/05/2021 – Washington Post – Nonprofit: Number of drownings in Great Lakes jumps in 2021 – The GLSRP released an explainer video last month to help swimmers understand that dangerous currents occur on the Great Lakes. The group emphasized the “flip, float and follow” drowning survival strategy, which instructs swimmers to prioritize floating and breathing before identifying an exit from the water.
07/05/2021 – Associated Press – Nonprofit: Number of drownings in Great Lakes jumps in 2021 – The GLSRP released an explainer video last month to help swimmers understand that dangerous currents occur on the Great Lakes. The group emphasized the “flip, float and follow” drowning survival strategy, which instructs swimmers to prioritize floating and breathing before identifying an exit from the water. “It is not common sense to know and understand that panic is the first stage of drowning and how to overcome that panic,” Dave Benjamin, executive director of GLSRP, told MLive.com. “It’s a drowning victim’s instinct to fight to survive, which only exhausts them into the vertical drowning posture. Once exhausted and in that drowning posture, the victim will submerge in less than 60 seconds.” To help prevent drowning, experts recommend making sure someone is designated to watch children at all times while swimming and ensure they wear life jackets. Older children and adults are also encouraged not to swim alone. All water-goers should avoid mixing drugs and alcohol with swimming.
07/05/2021 – Click on Detroit – Nonprofit: Number of drownings in Great Lakes jumps in 2021 – The GLSRP released an explainer video last month to help swimmers understand that dangerous currents occur on the Great Lakes. The group emphasized the “flip, float and follow” drowning survival strategy, which instructs swimmers to prioritize floating and breathing before identifying an exit from the water. “It is not common sense to know and understand that panic is the first stage of drowning and how to overcome that panic,” Dave Benjamin, executive director of GLSRP, told MLive.com. “It’s a drowning victim’s instinct to fight to survive, which only exhausts them into the vertical drowning posture. Once exhausted and in that drowning posture, the victim will submerge in less than 60 seconds.” To help prevent drowning, experts recommend making sure someone is designated to watch children at all times while swimming and ensure they wear life jackets. Older children and adults are also encouraged not to swim alone. All water-goers should avoid mixing drugs and alcohol with swimming.
07/05/2021 – Windsor Star – Great Lake drowning numbers up over this time last year – Before packing up the sunscreen, the snacks and the towels, a local non-profit group hopes people will watch a five-minute instructional video on how to prevent drowning while visiting the beach.
07/04/2021 – NWI Times – UPDATE: Missing swimmer’s body recovered from water off Lake Street Beach — The man was walking with a friend on the sandbar when he went under about 5 p.m. and didn’t resurface, said Tyler Brock, a public information officer for Indiana Department of Natural Resources Conservation Police. A lifeguard with the Gary Park Department spotted both men struggling in the water and was able to rescue one of them, Brock said. The man’s drowning brought the total number recorded for Lake Michigan this year to 16, according to statistics tracked by the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. An outcome remained unknown in two additional cases. That’s an increase from the 12 drownings recorded as of July 4, 2020, the organization said.
07/04/2021 – Fox 17 – Slight increase in Lake Michigan drownings in 2021—Last year was the deadliest year on Lake Michigan with 56 drownings, and officials caution the number of drownings this year is already higher than last July 4th. “What we want to consider is that we have a slight increase over last year, and last year was the deadliest year on Lake Michigan. And we don’t want to have a repeat of that,” he told FOX 17 News. “We want to get ahead of this as soon as we can…. we just want to make sure that everyone is conscious that when they go to Lake Michigan that they are extreme water safety advocates, they got their eyes on the water, they understand drowning is one of the leading causes of unintentional injury related death. And that you know, we have water watchers, we know what a drowning looks like, we have a drowning survival strategy.”
07/03/2021 – NWI Times – Watch now: After recent Lake Michigan drownings, experts call for more education
07/04/2021 – MLIVE – Great Lakes drownings increase during 2021 swim season – Overall, since 2010, there have been 978 drownings in the Great Lakes, data shows. Last month, the GLSRP released an explainer video titled “Great Lakes Dangerous Currents.” The video explains how, where and why dangerous currents occur on the Great Lakes and shows how to utilize the “flip, float and follow” drowning survival strategy in dangerous currents. Dave Benjamin, executive director of GLSRP, said it’s important to understand initial feelings of panic must be overcome quickly in order to survive. Benjamin said it’s the organization’s hope that the short, educational video, funded by the The Zac Foundation, will help save lives. The Zac Foundation’s mission is to create a generational change in how water safety is viewed by parents and their children.
07/03/2021 – CBS 58 – Coast Guard gives advice on water safety for 4th of July weekend – Check if there is going to be a lifeguard there at all times and if not, what time will they be there. According to a spokesperson from the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, 2021 is already considered a deadly year for drownings, with 32 drownings so far in the great lakes. Last year around this time of the year, there were 23. There have been 15 drownings in Lake Michigan this year so far, with three people drowning in just this last month.
07/04/2021 – The Journal Times – SPECIAL REPORT: There have been a rash of Lake Michigan drownings this year. But what can be done about it?
07/03/2021 – Kenosha News – Watch now: After recent Lake Michigan drownings, experts call for more education
07/03/2021 – Madison.com – Watch now: After recent Lake Michigan drownings, experts call for more education
07/02/2021 – WWMT – Going to the beach this holiday weekend? Be mindful of colored flags
07/02/2021 – GLSRP – Great Lakes Paddle Challenge 2021
07/02/2021 – Journal Sentinel – Most Milwaukee beaches don’t have lifeguards. Here’s what you should know about safety before you go.
07/01/2021 – WJON – NWS: DANGEROUS SWIMMING CONDITIONS ON LAKE SUPERIOR
07/02/2021 – Fox 17 – Rescue nonprofit shares water safety tips ahead of holiday weekend — The group has also prompted a bill in the Michigan Senate for educational funding – If you plan to visit the Big Lake this weekend, make sure to remind yourself and your children of the steps you need to keep in mind if you are struggling to stay above water. The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project reminds you to “flip, float and follow.” It’s a phrase used in the community, similar to the “stop, drop and roll” phrase most people are taught to do if they catch fire. In this technique, you are asked to flip on your back and float so that your head is above water while giving you the chance to calm down. Then once you have composed yourself and are no longer panicking, follow a safe path out of the water. The steps are outlined in this video here, along with steps to take if you find yourself in a dangerous rip current.
07/01/2021 – US News – Weather Service Warns of Lake Michigan Swimming Danger — The National Weather Service has warned against swimming in Lake Michigan this week because of dangerous conditions in the forecast.
07/01/2021 – Associated Press – Weather service warns of Lake Michigan swimming danger
07/01/2021 – Fox 17 – Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project reports 33 Great Lakes drownings so far this year – GLSRP warns that north winds across the Great Lakes will create dangerous currents on Thursday and Friday. They’ve released an educational “Great Lakes Dangerous Currents” explainer video in June in an effort to prevent additional drownings. “This educational video is the first of its kind to explain how, where, and why dangerous currents occur on the Great Lakes,” said Dave Benjamin GLSRP executive director. “It also shows how to utilize the “Flip, Float, and Follow” drowning survival strategy in each dangerous current.” The video was funded by The Zac Foundation, an organization working to a generational change in how water safety is viewed by parents and their children.
07/01/2021 – Journal Times – How rare were last month’s drownings in Lake Michigan? Very [This headline is so inaccurate.]
07/01/2021 – WSBT – Michigan City rethinking beach safety plan following two drownings
07/01/2021 – Wisconsin Public Radio – Milwaukee Beach Ambassadors Hope To Educate Swimmers, Prevent Drownings – 2020 Was Deadliest Year On Lake Michigan
06/30/2021 – WTMJ – NWS warns of dangerous conditions along lakefront Thursday and Friday – If you are stuck in a current, the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project shared a video that says swimmers should try to flip over and float. If you can, call for help and try to swim parallel to the beach to get away from the current, and then back to shore.
06/30/2021 – WZZM – Staying safe at the beach over the holiday weekend – The National Weather Service forecasts rough surf along West Michigan beaches on Thursday, with potential for three-to-six-foot waves.
06/30/2021 – Ozaukee Press – Port [Washington] urged to relaunch water safety initiative
06/30/2021 – Kenosha News – Recent drownings bring lake safety to forefront; Kenosha safeguards paying off
06/30/2021 – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – It won’t be safe to swim in Lake Michigan Thursday and Friday as high waves, strong currents will make conditions dangerous
06/30/2021 – Detroit News – Swimmers, beware: Lake Michigan’s 8-foot waves will be dangerous
06/29/2021 – NPR – A Drone Is Swooping In To Assist Lifeguards On Lake Michigan
06/29/2021 – Holland Sentinel – Documentary showcases dangers of Lake Michigan rip currents
06/27/2021 – ABC 7 Chicago – Our Chicago: Taking summer safety measures against tornadoes, drowning
06/25/2021 – Interlochen Radio – Can drones help prevent Lake Michigan drownings?
06/25/2021 – WBEZ Chicago – Safety Tips For Swimming In Lake Michigan This Summer
06/25/2021 – Chicago Tribune – Column: Near-drowning compels Jet Ski user to remind beachgoers, ‘Lake Michigan shows no mercy’. Last week, the GLSRP released a motion-graphics video to explain the phenomenon. Watch it at https://youtu.be/71D8Y8YlsRA. The effect is similar to pulling the plug in a bathtub. Lake Michigan isn’t a water park or a public swimming pool. It’s beautiful yet dangerous, calming yet misleading, enticing yet potentially deadly.
06/24/2021 – Spectrum 1 News – Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project working to educate swimmers on lake safety. What You Need To Know – As of June 24, 2021, there have been 14 drownings on Lake Michigan this year. Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project said most swimmers don’t know how to save themselves in a drowning situation despite being strong swimmers. The “Three Fs” swimmers need to remember are, “Flip, Float, Follow”
06/23/2021 – Journal Times – Watch now: Racine leaders have no plans to close beaches after drownings. Instead, they’re focusing on increasing safety measures and educating the public about the need to respect Lake Michigan’s power
06/23/2021 – Harbor County News – Guardians of the Beach in New Buffalo
06/22/2021 – News Dispatch – Longtime police officer, lifeguard says no excuse for not having lifeguards
06/22/2021 – Fox 6 News Milwaukee – Rip current survival strategies after Racine drownings
06/21/2021 – WRTV – 11-year-old girl dies in weekend drowning at a Michigan City beach, 14-year-old in critical condition
06/21/2021 – Grand Haven Tribune – New rip current documentary features Grand Haven incidents – It reveals why the Great Lakes are a hotspot for drownings, despite being hundreds of miles from an ocean.
06/21/2021 – Spectrum News 1 – After more deaths, U.S. Coast Guard warns of Great Lakes drowning risk
06/21/2021 – WNDU – Michigan City drownings raise questions about the safety of Lake Michigan — Benjamin’s organization recently released an instructional video on how currents work and how to utilize the “Flip, Float and Follow” Drowning Survival Strategy.
06/21/2021 – WZZM – New lights at Pere Marquette Beach give swimmers lake conditions in real-time
06/20/2021 – Northwest Indiana Times – Teen in critical condition after being rescued from Lake Michigan
06/20/2021 – WTMJ – Girl dies and a teen is in critical condition after drowning in Lake Michigan
06/20/2021 – ABC 7 Chicago – Lake Michigan drownings leave 2 dead, 2 critical Father’s Day weekend; beach hazard to be issued
06/20/2021 – Chicago Tribune – Girl dies after being pulled into deeper water at Lake Michigan beach in Indiana; one day later teen rescued in critical condition
06/20/2021 – NBC 5 Chicago – 2 Children Die in Weekend Drownings on Lake Michigan, 2 Teens in Critical Condition — A total of 13 drownings have been reported on Lake Michigan in 2021, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, a non-profit that tracks drownings
06/20/2021 – ABC 7 Chicago – Lake Michigan drownings leave 2 dead, 1 critical over Father’s Day weekend
06/20/2021 – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Two people drowned on Lake Michigan on Saturday, and a third swimmer is in critical condition – Zoo Beach has no lifeguards; North Beach is staffed with lifeguards until 6 p.m., according to the city’s website. Michigan City beaches are not staffed with lifeguards.
06/15/2021 – ABC 57 – Berrien County lifeguards spend day training on the beach
06/15/2021 – WNDU – Lifeguards train for open water rescues — Lifeguards from three different beaches along the lakeshore are diving in to learn advanced life-saving techniques. With 2020 marking Lake Michigan’s deadliest year for drownings in the past decade, the need for lake ready lifeguards is greater than ever. “There’s a lot more hazards in the open water than in the pool and in some instances you may be using the dangerous currents to get out to a drowning victim,” says Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project Director Dave Benjamin. “So, if they’re being pulled out in a rip current, you might take that same rip current out to get them.”
06/15/2021 – Fox 11 – Great Lakes organization raising swimming safety awareness on Lake Michigan
06/15/2021 – WSBT – Lifeguard group looks to increase beach safety along Lake Michigan
06/14/2021 – NWI Times – Man drowns after saving girlfriend in Lake Michigan
06/14/2021 – ABC 57 – 2020 a record year for Lake Michigan drownings
06/14/2021 – NBC 5 Chicago – High Winds Create Risk For Swimmers in Lake Michigan
06/14/2021 – WNDU – Why you need to be aware of swimming in Lake Michigan
06/14/2021 – Fox 17 – Officials warn of dangerous Lake Michigan conditions
06/13/2021 – ABC 13 Toledo – Tips to prevent drowning in 2021
06/13/2021 – WNDU – Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project launches first educational video – The video breaks down the dangerous currents you may come across in the Great Lakes, and what you should do if you find yourself caught in one. The Great Lakes Surf and Rescue Project created this video with funding from The Zac Foundation, another group focused on water safety. “We really hope that this is a game-changer for people understanding great lakes dangerous currents. This information has been out there for a long time, but it hasn’t been put into a format like this that should be, hopefully, easy to understand and easily accessible for the masses to be able to view,” Great Lakes Surf and Rescue Project co-founder Dave Benjamin said.
06/11/2021 – Chicago Tribune – Man found dead in Lake Michigan near Buckingham Fountain, cops say
06/11/2021 – KSAT – How to avoid drowning even if you don’t know how to swim – Texas Department of Family and Protective Services says 87 kids drowned in Texas last year – Many places, like the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, have advised using the ‘flip, float, follow’ technique. It says if you’re drowning, flip on your back then float on your back to keep your head above the water and conserve energy. Finally, follow the safest way to safety.
06/11/2021 – Click on Detroit – What Michigan boaters should know for a safe and enjoyable boating season
06/10/2021 – WGN – Ahead of full reopening, water advocates urge safety for Lakefront beach-goers. Chicago Park District and Lurie Children’s hosted a news conference to stress safety tips for swim season, in addition to discussing the work of the Drowning Prevention Action Plan (DPAP).
06/10/2021 – Fox 32 Chicago – Experts warn ‘water is dangerous’ as drowning deaths rise among teens
06/10/2021 – Quad City Times – Officials urge caution on Lake Michigan after record number of drownings in 2020
06/10/2021 – Chicago Tribune – Officials warn Chicagoans to watch for swim hazards on Lake Michigan after record number of drownings in 2020
06/10/2021 – Fox 2 Detroit – What Michigan Boaters Should Know for a Safe and Enjoyable Boating Season
06/10/2021 – ABC 7 – Group highlights dangers of swimming in Lake Michigan
06/10/2021 – FaceBook Live – Chicago Press Conference – The Chicago Drowning Prevention Action Plan RoundTable (CDPAP) hosted a summer safety press conference on June 10, 2021 at 31st Street Beach.
06/08/2021 – Fox 17 – Life jacket loaner station in South Haven hopes to promote safe swimming this summer
06/08/2021 – Chicago Sun-Times – Police recover body 8 miles east of South Shore in Lake Michigan
06/06/2021 – WOOD TV – As beachgoers return, crews remind swimmers of water dangers
06/03/2021 – WLNS – Traffic light-like system aims to save lives on Muskegon beach – [FYI: The flag system, whether cloth or electronic, is not a replacement for lifeguards. The Flag System is only one tool lifeguards use to educate and warn the public.] What it does is it uses cellular data to take information from the National Weather Service and NOAA and it just relays the information on what they’re reporting the beach conditions to be,” Muskegon Director of Public Works Leo Evans explained. [How often does NOAA update information to relay? Every hour? And is that info beach specific? Beach conditions change fast. Conditions can change from Green to Red in less than 30 minutes.] Last year, the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project labeled 2020 as the deadliest year on Lake Michigan in at least the last decade. GLSRP counted 21 deaths on Michigan’s shorelines. At least two of those drownings happened at Pere Marquette Park.
06/02/2021 – WSBT – No lifeguards on duty at Washington Park Beach this summer
05/30/2021 – Herald Palladium – Committee nixes lifeguard program proposal at South Haven beaches – Chair: City voters should weigh in on the proposal – After meeting for nearly six months, the South Haven Beach Safety Committee has put together a number of recommendations to make city-owned beaches safer for swimmers. However, a lifeguard program is not on the list. The ad hoc committee voted 5-2 last week not to forward the suggestion that the city council create a lifeguard program. Committee member Kameron Daugherty, who, along with member Sean Russell, voted in favor of having the city create a lifeguard program, was disappointed in the committee’s decision not to do so. “I have concerns we’re putting forth a recommendation that doesn’t do enough,” she said. “I worry that we haven’t done right enough by them (families of drowning victims). I’m concerned we’ve closed the door on further discussion on lifeguards. I think our recommendation would be a whole lot more effective with trained and certified lifeguards.” As part of the committee’s duties to recommend beach safety improvements to the city council for its approval, Russell – who at one time helped supervise the city’s lifeguard program before it was disbanded in 2001 – put together a cost analysis for a lifeguard program. Russell determined the program with trained and certified employees would cost $197,000 in its first year of operation and about $167,000 each year afterward. The program for North and South beaches would include 13 full-time lifeguards, two part-time lifeguards, two head guards and a supervisor. The budget would also include the purchase of rescue equipment, lifeguard towers, clothing, a first aid kit and flags. Daugherty, though, doesn’t think the recommendations do enough to deter drownings. “In all honesty, I wasn’t surprised by the vote but it stings nonetheless,” she said. “That said, I’m not done. We owe too much to the families of the victims and to our visitors. We need to ensure we have a gold standard beach and pier safety program that includes active participation in prevention – versus passive preventative measures – along with those new tools that will aid in rescue and recovery response.” Daugherty is seeking a seat on the city council this year, and will be on the ballot for Ward 2 in the August primary along with Wendi Onuki and Bob Overheul. “I’m hoping my bid for a seat on city council this year will be successful and then I will be able to continue the focus on beach and pier safety from the inside, right along with other key community priorities,” Daugherty said. Other options: Although the Beach Safety Committee is not recommending a lifeguard program to improve safety at the city’s two main beaches, it did forward other suggestions for the council to consider. They include: [THIS WAS NEVER DISCUSSED ON ANY OF THE BEACH COMMITTEE MEETINGS] Text warning system that would be sent to mobile phones when “red flag” warnings are issued advising people not to swim in the lake due to weather conditions. [THIS WAS NEVER DISCUSSED ON ANY OF THE BEACH COMMITTEE MEETINGS] Buying a drone to assist first responders in locating and helping. [THIS WAS NEVER DISCUSSED ON ANY OF THE BEACH COMMITTEE MEETINGS] Beach Patrol
05/30/2021 – The Associated Press – Lifeguards up for discussion in Lake Michigan beach town – SOUTH HAVEN, Mich. (AP) — A popular Lake Michigan beach town has been discussing whether to bring lifeguards back to the waterfront. The South Haven Beach Safety Committee recently voted against recommending lifeguards or a second line of buoys, said City Manager Kate Hosier. The committee’s work will be reviewed by the city council in South Haven. Three people drowned in the area last summer and there were 23 rescues. The city stopped using lifeguards in 2001. “It’s undisputed that lifeguards make a positive impact on beach safety,” committee member Kameron Daugherty said at a May 20 meeting.
05/29/2021 – WTTW – Summer Water Safety Tips for Pools and Beaches
05/28/2021 – Patch – Memorial Day Beach Trips: Drowning Rates In MI, Water Safety Tips – Travelers from Michigan can take note of the risks associated with visits to lakes and beaches as summer 2021 approaches.
05/28/2021 – Post Tribune – Lake County dive team suiting up for new chapter: ‘We’re getting the band back together’
05/27/2021 – Sturgis Journal – Sen. Kim LaSata: Stay safe on the water
05/25/2021 – Patch – Memorial Day 2021: Texas Drowning Rates, Water Safety Tips
05/24/2021 – Fox 17 – Nonprofit organization says lifeguards at South Haven beaches could prevent rescues, drownings – “We need to understand that lifeguards are the first responders on the beach. They have their eyes on the water. They are ready to go in a moment’s notice if someone is struggling in the water,” said Benjamin.
05/24/2021 – WZZM – Beach Awareness Week: Mother remembers son who drowned in Ottawa County, talks invisible dangers of Lake Michigan
05/22/2021 – Fox 6 – Bradford Beach packed; no lifeguards causes concern — this summer, there will be no lifeguards at Milwaukee County beaches. Milwaukee County leaders announced Friday that there were no returning lifeguards with open water experiences – hence, no lifeguards at county beaches this season. “I understand it’s been a very trying year, because you know a worldwide pandemic does have an impact on things, but does this become the lame excuse to terminate lifeguards’ program?” said Dave Benjamin, executive director of Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.
05/21/2021 – WNDU – Beat the heat at the lakeshore this weekend – Tips to stay cool this weekend
05/21/2021 – Patch – Cartersville, GA – Memorial Day 2021: Lake Allatoona Drowning Rates, Safety Tips — Travelers to Lake Allatoona should take note of the risks associated with visits to the lake as summer 2021 approaches.
05/21/2021 – WLS – Lake Michigan water rescue drills resume as summer returns – There’s been an increase in the number of drowning in Lake Michigan. According to the water safety advocacy group The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, so far this year there have been 6 drownings in Lake Michigan to date and 15 in the Great Lakes so far. In 2020 there was a total of 56 drownings in Lake Michigan and 109 in the Great Lakes.
05/21/2021 – WZZM 13 – Beach Awareness Week: How to stay safe on the lakeshore – May 24-27, 13 is on your side with all things beach safety!
05/20/2021 – WWMT – South Haven beach commission sinks lifeguard program recommendation
05/20/2021 – WWMT – South Haven to discuss bringing back lifeguards following spike in drownings in 2020
05/19/2021 – Patch – Memorial Day Swimming Safety: States With Highest Drowning Rates – Holiday travelers across America can take note of the risks associated with visits to lakes and beaches as summer 2021 approaches.
05/18/2021 – Patch.com – Memorial Day Beach Trips: NC Drowning Rates, Water Safety Tips – Indications from activists who track drowning statistics suggest 2020 was an even worse year for drownings in at least some of America’s largest lakes. Dave Benjamin, executive director of the Great Lakes Surf & Rescue Project, said the 56 drownings reported on Lake Michigan in 2020 were the most in a decade. To survive a rip current in particular, Benjamin has stressed the “float and follow” method. When caught in a current, float to keep your head above water, calm down and avoid panic and conserve energy before following the current to see which way it is moving. Then, Benjamin said, swim perpendicular to the flow.
05/17/2021 – WISN – New ambassador program hopes to better inform beachgoers – Ambassador program being funded with grant from Wisconsin Sea Grant
05/14/2021 – 9 & 10 News – Great Lakes Surf Rescue, TC Coast Guard Give Warning for Cold Water Conditions
05/13/2021 – WWMT – Text alert system, specialized drone improve beach safety measures in South Haven
05/12/2021 – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – ‘We have a crisis going on here’: Milwaukee County lifeguard shortage puts some pool and beach openings at risk — Milwaukee County Parks is seeking around 300 strong swimmers for lifeguard positions, and if they don’t find them, some pools and beaches won’t open this summer.
05/10/2021 – Milwaukee Magazine – Why Is McKinley Beach So Deadly?
05/08/2021 – NWI Times – WATCH NOW: Capsized boat recovered from Lake Michigan; search for drowning victim continues
05/08/2021 – NBC 5 – ‘My Goal is to Find My Boy:’ Family Continues Search for Missing Lake Michigan Boater
05/08/2021 – ABC 7 – Father of missing boater continues search week after boat capsizes near Ese Chicago Marina – Kelvin Soto Crespo of Yabucoa, Puerto Rico has been missing since last Saturday afternoon
05/08/2021 – NWI Times – Benjamin Soto has been walking the shoreline in Whiting and Hammond since his son went missing when a boat capsized in Lake Michigan. “He was very loved,” Soto said. “He liked to talk to people and he was a hard worker. He was my baby, the youngest.”
05/07/2021 – CBS 2 Chicago – ‘We Can Save The Next Life’ Chicago Woman Wants Park District To Put Up Life Rings For Lake Michigan. CBS 2 made repeated requests for comment from the Chicago Park District, but those requests went unanswered. UNANSWERED! U-N-A-N-S-W-E-R-E-D!!!
05/04/2021 – MLIVE – Drone will drop life preservers to struggling swimmers at South Haven beaches – The news of the drone purchase comes in the wake of discussions in South Haven and other communities along the lakeshore as a record numbers of drownings were reported on Lake Michigan in 2020, according to data from the nonprofit Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. There were 56 people who drowned in Lake Michigan in 2020 and there are four people with an unknown condition, according to Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. That passed the previous record of 49 drownings set in 2012. There were 48 drownings in Lake Michigan in 2019. [FYI: an active drowning victim will submerge in less than 60 seconds. If a bystander does happen to recognize a drowning person and calls 911, it takes SHAES 3 minutes for them to get to the beach. So unless lifeguards are on the beach or a SHAES officer is on the beach to witness the active drowning, will the drone be dispatched in time?]
05/02/2021 – ABC 7 Chicago – Man, 20, missing after boat capsizes in Lake Michigan near East Chicago Marina — Kelvin Soto Crespo of Yabucoa, Puerto Rico has been missing since Saturday afternoon
05/01/2021 – Northwest Indiana Times – Safety advocates warn of weekend beach hazards that could lead to drownings – While the weather may appear perfect for a day on the lake, safety officials warn against underlying hazards that could lead to drownings. While temperatures will be in the 80s and 70s in the coming weekends, there will be strong south winds and cold water temperatures, said Dave Benjamin, executive director of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. Benjamin said residents should enjoy the water from a distance as beachgoing season begins. “Sudden immersion into cold water can cause cold water shock, a hyperventilation gasp reflex, and an incapacitated swimming ability,” He said. “Drowning can happen within minutes. Hypothermia can set in in less than an hour.” “Even those that may consider boating could succumb to the winds if the boat incurs mechanical problems after the long winter storage,” Benjamin said. “If the boat’s motor loses power, it can go far and fast with the winds into open water, too.”
05/01/2021 – 9 & 10 News – The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Water Safety Reminder – May is National Water Safety Month and The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project is reminding people venturing to the lakefront, to enjoy the water from a distance. Although weekend temperatures will be nice, it comes with strong winds and cold water temperatures. Sudden immersion into cold water can cause cold water shock, hyperventilation gasp reflex and incapacitated swimming ability. Drownings can happen within minutes and hypothermia can set in in less than an hour. The group says those who may consider kayaking or Stand-up Paddle boarding should wear wetsuits, lifejackets and understand that offshore winds and/or side-offshore winds can blow them fast and far from shore, with little chance of making it back to the shore. 2020 was the deadliest year on Lake Michigan since 2010, with 56 drownings.
05/01/2021 – Fox 17 – Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project warns of dangerous conditions on Lake Michigan this weekend
05/01/2021 – WeAreGreenBay – Rising temperatures lead to hazardous weekend on Lake Michigan, residents take caution – (WFRV) – Due to the warm and windy weekend ahead, The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project wants to remind residents venturing to the lakefront, that they should enjoy the water from a distance. According to The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, as temperatures hover around the 80’s this weekend, it will come with strong south winds and cold water temperatures making it a hazardous weekend on Lake Michigan. Officials report a sudden immersion into cold water can cause cold water shock, a hyperventilation gasp reflex, and incapacitate one’s swimming ability. Those that may consider kayaking or Stand-up Paddleboarding should wear wetsuits, lifejackets, and understand that Offshore Winds and/or Side-Offshore winds can blow them fast and far from shore and there’s a likelihood that they won’t be able to paddle back to shore against the winds. Those considering boating could also succumb to the winds if the boat incurs mechanical problems after the long winter storage. If the boat’s motor loses power, it can go far and fast with the winds into open water too. Anyone venturing onto the open water should file a float plan, a form of communication (VHF Radio, whistle, Cell phone in a waterproof case), and lifejackets. The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project reports that 2020 was the deadliest year on Lake Michigan since 2010 with a recorded total of 56 drownings.
04/30/2021 – NBC 5 Chicago – Lifesaving Devices should be placed along Chicago Lakefront – The Chicago Park District was supposed to place 104 lifering stands on the Chicago lakefront, but one of its lawyers said, “it is better to do nothing.”
04/26/2021 – MLIVE – Danger signs installed along Lake Michigan harbors, piers
04/17/2021 – Daily Herald – Flip. Float. Follow: How to survive when caught in a rip current — The waters of Lake Michigan and suburban lakes may look inviting as temperatures rise, but before taking a dip, beachgoers should recognize and know how to deal with a potentially deadly hazard just below the surface. Rip currents, powerful forces that pull water and anything caught in them away from shore, can occur at any beach with breaking waves. Don’t take them lightly, safety experts say. Trouble arises when people are unable to get back to the beach because of fear, panic, exhaustion or lack of swimming skills, experts say. “These currents are pulling you from one spot to another,” said Homewood resident David Benjamin, who co-founded the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project Inc. “A person’s instinct when they’re drowning is to fight to survive, and they exhaust themselves,” he said. Recognizing the signs of drowning from an article he’d read, Benjamin said he quit fighting, calmed down and did nothing but float. “If you don’t float (first), you’ll never get to the exit strategy part,” he said. The mission of the Surf Rescue Project is to eradicate drownings through public education and awareness. The organization has made nearly 800 water safety presentations since its inception. One of them, with Benjamin presenting, was in 2019 to kick off the Glencoe Park District’s water safety and recreation program. While most beachgoers know how to swim, very few know a drowning survival strategy like “Flip, Float and Follow” when caught in a current, he said. “Our lifeguards are trained to spot rip currents and how to do a rescue under those conditions,” said Elizabeth Gogola, director of communications and marketing for the Park District of Highland Park. The district operates four beaches on Lake Michigan, but Rosewood is the only swimming beach. Signs there explains what beachgoers should do if caught in a dangerous current.
04/17/2021 – Record Eagle – Rip current forecast skips Great Lakes for now – FRANKFORT — A nationwide forecast model for rip currents is coming for many beaches around the U.S., but not the Great Lakes. Incorporating those beaches will take some more time, in part because calibrating the model takes eyes on the water and those are scarce, as many beaches around the Great Lakes lack lifeguards. Meanwhile, the NWS continues to forecast some swim hazards like high wind and waves during summer months, and Frankfort will take part in a pilot project, SwimSmart, for technology developed by a company that wants to feed more data to the NWS for better forecasts. Starting in May, beachgoers and pier walkers at the Benzie County city will see two SwimSmart Warning System lights, one at the main beach entrance and one on the breakwall, Frankfort Superintendent Joshua Mills said. They’ll show a green, yellow or red light similar to the flag system already used by the city and at public beaches around Lake Michigan. [FYI: The Beach Flag System is a tool for lifeguards to use and not a replacement for lifeguards.]
The SwimSmart company will get its information from NWS surf forecasts and will change its lights to match what the weather service is saying. The company isn’t making the call as to what’s safe or not. Lights, signs and fancy algorithms can’t beat actual trained lifeguards and public education on how to survive rip currents, said Dave Benjamin, the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project’s executive director. He thinks it’s great the funding exists to develop a rip current forecast model but wishes safety education and staffing beaches got the same kind of attention and money. Even lights that can change instantaneously based on forecast data might be running on information updated every few hours, Benjamin said. Lifeguards can watch and react to water hazards that can go from green flag to red flag conditions in the space of an hour — they might struggle, though, with traditional flags if they’re shorthanded. Cities that struggle to find lifeguards could aggressively recruit at high schools and colleges with swim or water polo teams, Benjamin said. Creating a junior lifeguard corps attracts more candidates as well. Plus, people drawn to the job typically seek out careers in other sectors hurting for new recruits: emergency medical responders, nurses and police. No system is perfect and that includes SwimSmart, Sotek said. And even with its connectivity and future plans to improve beach condition forecasts, it can’t completely eliminate the risk of drowning. “The other thing that’s important to mention is a warning system is exactly that, some people will obey it and some people won’t, and we understand that, and that it’s not the only tool that can help with water safety,” he said. Mills agreed lifeguards might be a good idea, noting the city’s been without them since the 1990s. But candidates are scarce [if you don’trecruit]. Even though there may be room in the budget to hire those who do take the training, the whole city’s short-staffed. Add to that questions of legal liability [there is NO ADDED LIABILITY] that cities with lifeguards do face and it’s a complicated call to make. “I would love to bring back a lifeguard, we just need to talk about the logistics of that,” he said.
04/10/2021 – CBS Detroit – Michigan Officials Warn Beachgoers To Be Mindful of Rise In Drowning Cases. 56 people drowned in Lake Michigan last year up from 2019. Experts say fewer lifeguards, canceled swimming lessons, and high waters are all to blame.
04/08/2021 – NNY 360 – Study finds alarming spike in Great Lakes drownings tied to COVID-19. At many of those beaches, COVID-19 contributed to local governments not providing lifeguards, swimming area markings or flag warnings for dangerous wave days.
04/08/2021 – Detroit Free Press & Herald Media – Spike in Great Lakes drownings tied to COVID-19, study finds
04/07/2021 – WWMT – New study evaluates impact COVID-19 has on drownings in Great Lakes region – The study suggested beach drownings were significantly greater in 2020 than in years past for the region. The authors, Chris Houser and Brent Vlodarchyk, attribute the increase to reduced lifeguards, swim lessons being cancelled, large crowds of beachgoers, warm weather and high water levels, as well as people experiencing self isolation fatigue. The co-founder of Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, Dave Benjamin, said while he agrees the lack of resources and lack of public education are attributing factors to the increase in drownings, he said he doesn’t agree drownings were worse las year because of COVID-19. Instead, Benjamin said the drownings in 2020 were on par. “We believe these drowning numbers have always been this high. What is catching up now is the technology and how we can track these drownings,: said Benjamin. He said in 2019 there were 49 drownings in Lake Michigan, and 56 in 2020. He said last year, three drownings would’ve gone unreported had family and friends not reached out to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.
04/07/2021 – Detroit Free Press – Alarming spike in Great Lakes drownings tied to COVID-19, study finds
04/03/2021 – South Bend Tribune – Police identify man who drowned at Silver Beach – ST. JOSEPH — Police have identified 27-year-old St. Joseph resident Dakota Yergeau as the man who drowned last Sunday at Silver Beach. Two men were on the beach’s south pier March 28 when a wave crashed into them just before 5:30 p.m. According to data collected by the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to water safety, 56 people drowned in Lake Michigan in 2020, breaking the previous high of 49 reported in 2012.
04/02/2021 – ABC 57 – Experts say to flip, float and follow when faced with hazardous water – MISHAWAKA, Ind. — With every body of water, comes a hazard. Even as air temperatures continue to climb, water remains cold. When submerged in cold water, swimmers should follow the 1-10-1 principle. One minute to get your breathing under control, ten minutes of meaningful movement, and one hour until hypothermia can kill you. For drowning accidents, most victims immediately react with movement. However, experts say getting out of water is a marathon, not a sprint. Therefore, the best option is to flip, float and follow. Floating and remaining calm is the first step to finding a plan of survival. Dave Benjamin with the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project explains everyone knows the expression “stop, drop and roll” for fire safety. This same level of education is necessary to prevent future water accidents. “The biggest factor to water safety is there is not enough education to water safety. So everyone in the nation knows if your clothes catch on fire you stop, drop and roll. But very few people know that if you are struggling water you need to float and stay at the surface. Your instinct is to fight to survive, and you gas out all of your energy and you submerge,” says Benjamin. Benjamin also saying to avoid going near water under rough conditions, but even so, every body of water can be dangerous, so preparation is crucial.
03/31/2021 – WGN Radio – What should you do if you’re struggling in water over your head? The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project director shares this strategy with John Williams: Flip, Float, and Follow – with the emphasis on floating. ‘Panic is the first stage of drowning,’ the director said.
02/25/2021 – Kenosha News – Ice in Kenosha harbor make it dangerous to be in waters now – water safety group says
02/25/2021 – WZZM – South Haven revisits adding lifeguards to beaches — 2020 saw three drownings in South Haven. Supporters of adding lifeguards say they are the “gold standard in beach safety.”
02/18/2021 – Record Eagle – Editorial: A picture on the ice isn’t worth your life
02/12/2021 – NBC 5 Chicago – Cold Water Immersion Takes Center Stage after Lake Michigan Swim Photos Goes Viral
02/08/2021 – Michigan NPR – All Things Considered – The beauty and dangers of Great Lakes ice cover
02/08/2021 – NBC 5 Chicago – Woman Reveals Story Behind Viral Lake Michigan ‘Ice Lily Pad’ Photo – Guthmann said that she had been training for the moment and practices cold water immersion daily. Several groups and authorities in Chicago have also warned about walking on ice around Lake Michigan. Since 2010, there have been 948 drownings reported in the Great Lakes, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. Experts urge the public not to walk out onto shelf ice, and to always use care when walking near bodies of water during the winter.
02/08/2021 – WWMT – As Michigan piers and waterways freeze up, experts warn against unnecessary risks
02/06/2021 – South Bend Tribune – Michigan City may boost lifeguard pay, up to nearly $18.50 an hour for some positions. An ordinance introduced Tuesday would increase hourly pay to $16.62 for a lifeguard, $17.67 for the two assistant head lifeguards and $18.47 for the head lifeguard. A companion ordinance was introduced to increase that budget line item by $36,260 to pay for the increases. “If this city wants a guarded beach, I think that’s what it’s going to take,” Eason said. The city’s lifeguard positions are currently budgeted at $10.71 to $11.62 an hour, Councilman Don Przybylinski, D-at-large, said. Whiting pays $10.45, Gary pays $8.25 to $10, and Indiana Dunes National Park pays $16.50 to $18.50, he said. Dave Benjamin, executive director of the Great Lakes Rescue Project, commended the council for considering higher wages for lifeguards. Benjamin founded the nonprofit water safety-focused agency after he survived a drowning incident in Lake Michigan at the Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk. The agency has helped the city get life rings on the pier leading to the lighthouse at Washington Park. “Really, with lifeguarding, it’s about recruiting the team,” Benjamin said. “You want really strong athletes for this position.” He suggested looking for lifeguard candidates from swim teams and water polo teams. “There’s a lot of competition for it and raising the wage will be a prime way of attracting more people,” he said. Benjamin defended the hierarchy of lifeguards. “If an incident happens on the beach, it shouldn’t be your low-level first-year, second-year lifeguard, he said. That’s especially true when dealing with the media, crowd control and other issues, he said. “It’s great to hear a professional opinion on this issue,” said Council President Michael Mack, D-3rd. The council is expected to consider the ordinance again Feb. 23.
02/05/2021 – Northwest Indiana Times – Michigan City might boost lifeguard pay
02/02/2021 – Wood TV – Group pushes for return of lifeguards in South Haven
02/02/2021 – NBC 5 Chicago – Man Recalls Terrifying Moment He Fell Through Lake Michigan ‘Shelf Ice’
02/01/2020 – WWMT – Man’s fall into Lake Michigan illustrates dangers of venturing onto shelf ice
02/01/2021 – WLUK Fox 11 – Officials warn of Lake Michigan shelf ice and ice volcanoes
01/29/2021 – Fox 32 Chicago – Man who fell through Lake Michigan ice shelf hopes video serves as a warning to others – Johnny Jacobsen recounts his experience falling through the ice into Lake Michigan on a surface that he thought was still the beach.
01/27/2021 – NBC 5 Chicago – Group Issues Warning After Man Falls Through Lake Michigan ‘Shelf Ice’ The man was able to climb out of the water after the incident, the group said
01/28/2021 – MLIVE – Shelf ice or sand? Group urges caution after man plunges into Lake Michigan
01/27/2021 – NWI Times – WATCH NOW: Man falls through shelf ice on Lake Michigan; officials warn of hidden dangers — A video taken by the man’s wife shows him suddenly plummeting into the ice. CHICAGO — Officials are warning about the dangers of walking along Lake Michigan’s snowy shoreline, after a man fell through an ice shelf on Tuesday. Johnny Jacobsen, of Chicago, was walking along the shore of Loyola Beach in Chicago with his wife when he suddenly plummeted through the ice and into the water, a video shows. The lower half of his body appeared to disappear beneath the icy surface and his wife ran closer as he shifted to try and get out. He was able to quickly pull himself out and get off the ice unharmed. “I definitely think there should be some warnings or something,” Jacobsen said. “I had no idea these existed. I thought I was walking on sand.” Dave Benjamin, executive director of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, said luckily Jacobsen had fallen into relatively shallow water but “it could have been much worse.” Benjamin said shelf ice that forms along the shoreline is a hidden danger that has cost lives. “It can be impossible to know where the sand ends and the waterline begins,” Benjamin said. “People see peaks of snow but it’s really ice. Then they try to climb them, but the peaks could be the weakest point in the ice, causing them to fall in. Some of these are 6 feet tall and if you fall down in one into waist-deep water, there’s no way to climb out.” He said hypothermia can quickly set in before the person is able to get help or pull themselves out of the ice and water. Benjamin said there have not been any ice tragedies recently near the Region, but this past week an ice fisherman in northern Michigan died after he fell through the ice while riding an ATV and drowned. While taking pets to enjoy a winter beach walk, owners should be careful not to let their dogs off the leash near the lakeshore when there’s ice. “People will take their dogs to the beach but then the dogs get in trouble on the ice and people will die trying to rescue their dogs,” Benjamin said. “But most of the time, the dog will survive.” He said that if someone sees a pet or animal in danger on ice, one should call 911 and stay off the ice. There have been a total of 948 drownings in the Great Lakes since 2010, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.
01/27/2021 – NBC 5 – Video Demonstrates ‘Shelf Ice’ Dangers on Lake Michigan — A very close call for a man walking on what he thought was Lake Michigan’s shoreline in Rogers Park, but it was actually shelf ice. The man’s wife was taking a video as he sunk down and water filled up his boots. He was able to get out, but wanted to warn others about the dangers.
01/27/2021 – WILX – Chicago man falls through shallow Lake Michigan shelf ice, cautions people
01/05/2021 – Laredo Morning Times – Year in review: Law enforcement and accidents – BENZIE COUNTY — Just like any other year, 2020 had its share of stories about law enforcement and unfortunate accidents, even with travel restrictions and shutdowns. Here are some of the big stories that made headlines in Benzie County in 2020. Drownings – Several people drowned in Benzie County this year, including a boy who was washed off the pier at Frankfort. The 12-year-old boy was swept off Frankfort pier on Sept. 21 when he was walking there with family members, an 11-year-old and a 50-year-old aunt. The aunt was able to rescue the 11-year-old, but the other boy went under the water and did not come back up. His body was recovered on Sept. 23 by the Grand Traverse Mutual Dive Team with the assistance of their remote operated vehicle. According to the Great Lakes Surf and Rescue Project, 56 people have been confirmed to have drown in Lake Michigan in 2020, with four people recovered from the water in unknown condition.
11/20/2020 – Lake Superior Magazine – Around the Circle This Week: November 20, 2020 – Seasonal Corps Cautions: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers put out a release this week naming a few of the dangers to folks enjoying Great Lakes waters this time of year. “Many accidents and incidents near harbor structures occur during the turbulent weather season late in the year and higher than normal water levels pose an added threat,” the release notes. “The lakeshore attracts local residents and visitors alike and some may not be aware of the powerful impacts that strong winds, storms and high water levels can bring.” The release also links to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, a nonprofit geared toward eradicating drownings in the Great Lakes. It has done classes in Duluth (in summer, seen here) and we just liked the “Baywatch” image on its open … along with the good statistics on drownings and its safety tips. Besides the usual cold waters this time of year (though Lake Superior can be warmer than the air temps in winter), the Corps pointed to three areas of concern: “Submerged Structures. Many piers, docks and portions of breakwaters may not be visible above the water surface due to high water and waves. Winds often affect local water levels, dramatically increasing levels during storms. and windy days. Structures that may be visible on a calm day may not be visible on a windy day.
11/18/2020 – Fox TV 6 – High water levels and wave events increase safety hazards on Great Lakes — Many accidents and incidents near harbor structures occur during the turbulent weather season late in the year and higher than normal water levels pose an added threat. For more information on water and pier safety, the Great Lakes Beach & Pier Safety Task Force’s video, “Respect the Power,” is a great resource. The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project is another resource for water safety.
11/18/2020 – US Army Corps of Engineers – High water levels and wave events increase safety hazards — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers urges caution around Great Lake piers, breakwaters and jetties, particularly during times of high wind and wave events. Many accidents and incidents near harbor structures occur during the turbulent weather season late in the year and higher than normal water levels pose an added threat. The lakeshore attracts local residents and visitors alike and some may not be aware of the powerful impacts that strong winds, storms and high water levels can bring. Stay Safe. For more information on water and pier safety, the Great Lakes Beach & Pier Safety Task Force’s video, “Respect the Power,” is a great resource. The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project http://www.glsrp.org/ is another resource for water safety.
11/15/2020 – Herald Palladium – South Haven officials form committee to address beach, water safety concerns – After 3 drownings this year, some residents want to bring back lifeguards – Three drownings in Lake Michigan this past summer along with more than a dozen water rescues has prompted City Council members to form a committee to examine whether changes need to be made to the current beach and water safety plan. Members voted unanimously Monday to form the committee following ongoing requests by citizens for the city hire lifeguards, once again, to man North and South beaches, the two largest of the city’s seven beaches.
11/01/2020 – SUP Connect – SUP BASICS: WHAT’S YOUR SWIM SCORE?
10/25/2020 – MLIVE – Why most Lake Michigan beaches don’t have lifeguards despite repeated drownings
10/25/2020 – MLIVE – Could these lives have been saved by lifeguards along Lake Michigan?
10/26/2020 – Great Lakes Echo – Is Lake Michigan the most dangerous Great Lake?
10/21/2020 – Mix 95.7 Grand Rapids – Holland State Park will limit access to the pier during winter
10/21/2020 – MLIVE – Holland State Park likely to gate-off Lake Michigan pier during dangerous conditions
10/20/2020 – WZZM – Holland State Park to limit access to pier during harsh weather
There have been 53 drownings in Lake Michigan this year.
10/17/2020 – Pool Fence DIY – Lake Drowning Prevention: Lake Michigan Sets a Drowning Record with 53 Lives Lost in 2020
10/15/2020 – Ludington Daily News – Is Lake Michigan the most dangerous Great Lake?
10/11/2020 – Northwest Indiana Times – With Lake Michigan’s record-high deaths, activists call for more safety measures
10/09/2020 – Petoskey News-Review – Local Lowdown: ‘Swim at your own risk’ Lake Michigan drownings at a 10 year high
10/09/2020 – The Sault News – ‘Swim at your own risk:’ Lake Michigan drownings at a 10 year high
10/09/2020 – Spartan News Room – Is Lake Michigan the most dangerous Great Lake?
10/08/2020 – MLIVE – Letter from the Editor: Lake Michigan drowning video shows the power of nature, and the power of journalism to save lives
Sitting in front of someone who has suffered a tragedy in their life and asking them questions is the hardest thing I’ve done in my career as a journalist. And it’s been one of the most important, too.
That’s why the documentary video “The Deadliest Great Lake” by MLive has so much resonance – the tales of loss land like a punch to the gut. But I also believe those stories will save lives.
The documentary features families who have lost children to drownings in Lake Michigan. That lake accounts for nearly half of all drownings each year in the Great Lakes, due to a unique combination of factors such as population, wave effects, piers and weather patterns.
The science behind that is explained in excellent fashion in the video. But that’s not what delivers the message of what is at stake.
“One of the hardest things to film was the moms talking about their kids, (holding) their photos,” said Jeremy Marble, an MLive videographer who served as director of photography for the project. “It’s not about you, and what answers you want to get, it’s about them telling their story.”
Lori Chapman, scriptwriter and editor for the video, was in the room for those difficult moments, as well.
10/04/2020 – Fox 11 GREEN BAY (WLUK) – 2020 breaks record for drownings on Lake Michigan
10/02/2020 – Great Lakes Commission – Lake Michigan drownings surge to new high in 2020 — Drownings in Lake Michigan have reached record levels with at least 53 people dead so far this year, according to the water safety advocacy group the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.
10/01/2020 – Holland Sentinel – Lake Michigan drownings reach 10-year high
10/01/2020 – Great Lakes Now – Lake Michigan drownings surge to new high in 2020
10/01/2020 – Northwest Indiana Times – UPDATE: Lake hazard warnings extended at NWI beaches, NWS says
09/30/2020 – WILX – Lake Michigan drownings surge to new high in 2020
09/30/2020 – Manistee News Advocate – Recovering drowning victims in Lake Michigan can be a difficult task
09/30/2020 – FlipBoard – U.S. News & World Report – Lake Michigan Drownings Surge to New High in 2020
09/30/2020 – South Bend Tribune – Lake Michigan drownings surge to new high in 2020
09/29/2020 – WBBM News Radio 780 Chicago – 2020 sees a record number of drownings in Lake Michigan
09/29/2020 – MLIVE – Lake Michigan drownings reach record-breaking level in 2020
09/29/2020 – Wood TV 8 – Great Lakes Surf group says Lake Michigan drownings have hit record high
09/29/2020 – CBS Detroit – Authorities Urge Caution As Lake Michigan Drownings Reach 10-Year High
09/29/2020 – WFGR Grand Rapids – Lake Michigan Drownings Reach 10-year High
09/29/2020 – Parent Security – #childsafetytips | Lake Michigan communities and drowning — Does your coastal town have a lifeguard on duty? What about a life ring or water safety classes and other measures to help educate or offer resources to prevent drownings?
09/29/2020 – Huron Daily Tribune – Lake Michigan drownings surge to new high in 2020
09/29/2020 – Click on Detroit – Lake Michigan drownings surge to new high in 2020 – At least 53 people died so far this year
09/23/2020 – MLIVE – Lake Michigan Documentary – The Deadliest Great Lake
09/23/2020 – Chicago Sun-Times – Three other people have drowned this year in Monroe Harbor. On Sept. 3, divers found the body of 32-year-old man in the water, days after he went into Lake Michigan from a boat. On Aug. 25, Carlton Hughes drowned in Monroe Harbor after going in the water near the Museum Campus. The 41-year-old Gresham resident died a day later at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. On July 7, Ameera Muhammad, 24, of Bronzeville drowned after swimming in the harbor during bad weather, officials said. In 2020, at least 50 people have drowned in Lake Michigan, according to the Great Lake Surf Rescue Project, which tracks drownings.
09/18/2020 – NWI Times – Beach hazards, frost predicted across Region
09/18/2020 – KPC News – Beach hazards, frost predicted across Region
09/11/2020 – Chicago Sun-Times – Young woman pulled from Lake Michigan in cardiac arrest on South Side – First responders pulled her from the water Friday afternoon near 87th Street.
09/07/2020 – NWI Times – Indiana teen’s body recovered from Lake Michigan, DNR says
09/09/2020 – NWI Times – Search continues for boater after he fell overboard near Hammond Marina
09/07/2020 – WNDU – Southwest Michigan shorelines see high swim risk on Labor Day
09/07/2020 – WZZM – ‘Stay out of the water’, Dangerous swim conditions on Lake Michigan
09/06/2020 – The Holland Sentinel – My Take: Lifeguards at Lake Michigan would make all the difference
09/05/2020 – WZZM – 3 water rescues reported near South Haven on Lake Michigan
09/03/2020 – NBC 5 – Body Recovered From Monroe Harbor Four Days Into Search For Missing Boater – The body is believed to be that of a 32-year-old man who fell off a boat Sunday evening in the harbor near the 400 block of East Monroe Street, police said. He went underwater and never resurfaced.
09/03/2020 – Chicago Sun-Times – Body recovered from Monroe Harbor four days into search for missing boater
09/02/2020 – WZZM – Practicing water safety and COVID-19 precautions this Labor Day Weekend
09/02/2020 – Fox 32 – Body recovered from Monroe Harbor four days into search for missing boater
08/31/2020 – Chicago Sun-Times – Search resumes for missing boater in Monroe Harbor
08/31/2020 – Journal Sentinel – Life-threatening swim conditions expected along Lake Michigan beaches on Monday
08/29/2020 – MLIVE – 8-foot waves, dangerous swimming conditions forecast for Lake Michigan
08/27/2020 – Record Eagle – Editorial: Enjoy the lakes, but approach them with caution
08/24/2020 – Chicago Sun-Times – 2nd Bridgeview teen dies after being pulled from Lake Michigan in NW Indiana — Yousef Saleh was among several people pulled from the Portage Lakefront Aug. 16.
08/19/2020 – Detroit Free Press – 60 people have drowned in Great Lakes this year: How to stay safe — For years, the GLSRP has argued the flag system doesn’t work.
“The flag system is absolutely not enough,” said Executive Director Dave Benjamin. “People drown every year during red flag conditions and every year, the system proves to be a failure.
“It’s meant to be a tool for lifeguards; but it doesn’t replace them. A flag has never gone into the water. A flag has never rescued anybody. Lifeguards are trained to watch, they’re trained to know what drowning looks like and they’re trained to get to victims in less than 60 seconds and bring them a flotation device.”
Benjamin argues, when it comes to water safety, time is of the essence.
After three minutes in the water, a drowning victim’s heart stops. A minute later, irreparable brain damage beings, [and at 10 minutes there’s only a 14% survival rate].
[“If a person is in the water and recognizes that someone is drowning, how long does it take for them to get out of the water], call [911. 911 pinpoints their location, and dispatches] first responders – even if their response time is 3 minutes their arrival time may be past the 10 minute mark.”]
Benjamin said. “It’s not a rescue anymore; it’s a recovery.”
Common misconceptions about drownings don’t help, either. “There’s this thing called the stigma of drowning,” Benjamin said. “When a drowning happens, people often blame the victim or the parents or Darwinism. It gives people a false sense of security. “They think drowning can’t or won’t happen to them. They say they wouldn’t be that parent or put themselves in that situation. And that comes from a place of misunderstanding. Drowning happens to other people until you become other people. “And this stigma actually inhibits funding against drowning because the theme becomes, ‘Only stupid people drown. And why should we waste money on stupid?’ But that’s not right.”
According to data from GLSRP, 80 percent of drowning victims are male, 66 percent of drowning victims are strong swimmers and 54 percent of Americans lack the basic swimming abilities necessary to save their own lives in a water emergency. But a lack of widespread knowledge that drowning can happen to anyone means many visitors ignore red flags.
“If you go to a beach and you see red flags flying and hundreds of people in the water, what message does that send?” Benjamin said.
In August, a general management plan for the future of Holland State Park was released to the public. The $4.6 million draft includes designing and constructing a new bathroom building, installing an automated parking notification system and making accessibility improvements. The plan does not, however, include an updated water condition warning system for park visitors. But according to Mulligan, safety concerns aren’t what a general management plan is designed to tackle. “That plan is a long-term goal for management of the park,” he said. “Problems that concern safety are an immediate need, so we deal with those things not in the plan but in our daily operations and conversations.”
Mulligan added the DNR is having those conversations now. “We’re working on that with our division,” he said. “We’re working on things like trying to acquire a public address system. We’re utilizing our social media pages to post conditions. “We’re also working with the township and engineers and having ongoing conversations about what we can do, such as placing a gate on the pier and finding other ways to educate the public.”
A virtual meeting will take place at 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 20, during which those interested in sharing their opinion about the future of Holland State Park will have an opportunity to speak.
Advance registration is required for the meeting. To sign up and view a copy of the management plan, visit michigan.gov/holland.
[*Unfortunately there were some misquoted or misunderstood information during the interview. I corrected some of it in the brackets above.]
08/18/2020 – NWI Times – 2 drowning victims identified amid concerns about local beach safety – Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project Executive Director Dave Benjamin, who helped provide care when Nagi was brought to shore at Porter Beach, also asked: “Why are people allowed to continue to swim at these beaches when clearly Indiana Dunes State Park closed its water to swimmers because of the red flag conditions?” Benjamin asked why the local beaches in question, which are within the jurisdiction of Indiana Dunes National Park, are allowed to operate “without lifeguards, beach signage, beach flags, rescue equipment?” “Why are people allowed to swim when there’s a report of a missing swimmer?” he asked. “Why does someone have to die before the water is cleared of swimmers?” No one has yet responded at the Indiana Dunes National Park for comment.
08/17/2020 – Click on Detroit – Swimming advisories extended for parts of Lake Michigan
08/17/2020 – Herald Dispatch – One dead, several rescued from choppy waters of Lake Michigan – PORTAGE — Though the National Weather Service had issued beach warnings along the Lake Michigan shoreline, area beaches were packed this weekend, keeping first responders busy with emergency calls. “There were a total of 10 distressed swimmer/near drowning calls Sunday along the Porter County shore of Lake Michigan,” a statement from Ogden Dunes Police said. “We have more high wave warnings coming … Reminder to heed the warnings.”
08/16/2020 – NWI Times – Teen remains missing after disappearing off Portage Riverwalk, official says
08/14/2020 – Interlochen Public Radio – Late summer, early fall can be a dangerous time on Great Lakes for boaters, swimmers
08/13/2020 – WISN – The Milwaukee County Parks Department decided to close McKinley Beach for the rest of the summer after three people have drowned in rip currents. The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project said 29 people have drowned in Lake Michigan so far this year.
County Supervisor Sheldon Wasserman said the drownings at McKinley Beach could have been prevented. “All the parks, pools have been closed, and we have a hot summer in Milwaukee and people want to cool off and they’re going to come down to the beach,” he said. “It’s the only place they could cool off, and we should have had lifeguards here. We didn’t and three people have died. It’s very tragic.”
Wasserman said there have not been lifeguards at McKinley Beach for more than a decade. County Parks officials said funding for lifeguards is included in its budget request for next year, but it does not include McKinley Beach.
08/12/2020 – NBC 5 – A body pulled from Lake Michigan has been identified as Patrick Louis Tedeski, a 15-year-old boy who fell into Diversey Harbor days earlier. At least 29 people have downed in Lake Michigan so far in 2020, according to the Great Lake Surf Project, which tracks drownings.
08/13/2020 – Holland Sentinel – $4.6M DNR plan for Holland State Park – AND it does not include a penny for lifeguards – it does not include updated warning system — This year has already seen three deaths at Holland State Park, including Eliza Trainer, 16, of Flint, who drowned after she and her friend were swept off the pier in January; Iain Rowe, 6, of Ferrysburg, who drowned after water conditions worsened on June 6; and Christian Ngabo, 17, of Grand Rapids, who drowned the same day and during the same conditions as Rowe.
There have been 892 drownings in the Great Lakes since 2010, with the majority occurring in Lake Michigan, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. In 2020 so far, there have been 54 Great Lakes drownings, with more than half (29) in Lake Michigan.
New projects in the $4.6 million draft include designing and constructing a new bathroom building, installing an automated parking notification system, upgrading the electric service in Lake Macatawa Campground and making accessibility improvements along the channel and on the beach.
The “phase two” plan covers at least the next decade of management strategies and upgrades that will help the Department of Natural Resources protect and preserve the park’s natural and cultural resources — as well as provide access to public recreation and education.
Those interested in sharing their opinion about the future of Holland State Park will have an opportunity in an upcoming virtual meeting.
The meeting will take place at 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 20, and will focus on gathering public feedback on the draft of the new general management plan.
08/11/2020 – Chicago Sun-Times – Body pulled from Belmont Harbor identified as teen who went missing in Lake Michigan. Patrick Tedeski was recovered Aug. 7 from Belmont Harbor.
08/01/2020 – South Bend Tribune – Lake Michigan claims three lives in one day – So far this year, 25 of the 48 drownings in the Great Lakes have occurred in Lake Michigan — highlighting its reputation as the most dangerous of the lakes for swimmers.
08/01/2020 – WZZM – Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project to educate on lake safety — This comes just days after three people drowned in Lake Michigan. This year, 48 people have drowned in the Great Lakes.
07/31/2020 – WSBT – So far this year 24 people have drowned in Lake Michigan — Water safety advocate Dave Benjamin has spent the past 10 years tracking Lake Michigan drownings. “All of these could’ve easily been prevented, and once the person got in trouble, possibly survivable if the person knew survival drowning strategies,” he said. He says people don’t realize that the lakes have dangerous waves and undercurrents, too. He talked about several tips to stay safe. And expressed frustration that cities don’t make water safety more of a priority. “I’ve been doing this for 10 years now and it never gets easier and usually it is always the same message.” Benjamin says if you do want to go swimming in wavy water, to wear a life jacket.
07/31/2020 – WZZM – Father drowns in Lake Michigan attempting to save his children — Dave Benjamin, executive director of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, says there’s a common belief that tourists are more likely to drown than locals. He doesn’t believe that’s necessarily true.
07/31/2020 – NWI Times – UPDATE: 2 people drown, 1 still missing at Lake Michigan beaches as hazards statements were in effect
07/31/2020 – ABC 57 – Recent Lake Michigan drownings reminder of rip current dangers
07/31/2020 – MLIVE – Off-duty DNR officer saves swimmer in Lake Superior
07/31/2020 – NWI Times – Lake Michigan beaches saw 1 drowning, 2 missing people as hazards statements were in effect
07/28/2020 – Traverse City Record Eagle – Torch Lake death adds to list of water-related fatalities 07/26/2020 – Richard Church, M-57,
07/27/2020 – WTTW 11 – CHICAGO TONIGHT – With Beaches Closed, Experts Warn of Increased Risk for Drowning
07/21/2020 – WZZM – Grand Haven fisherman raising money for water safety education after latest drowning. He hopes the effort will span to all Michigan beaches.
07/21/2020 – Fox 6 Milwaukee – SE Wisconsin sees sharp rise in drownings this summer; COVID-19 could play role
07/21/2020 – WNEM – Teen’s body found in Lake Michigan after weekend drowning
07/21/2020 – WILX – Teen’s body found in Lake Michigan after weekend drowning
07/20/2020 – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Teen who drowned saving two young family members was remembered for always doing the right thing
07/20/2020 – WLS 7 Chicago – Local swim school offers swimming safety tips for parents
07/17/2020 – Fox 17 – Frightening video of kids nearly swept off of Michigan City pier on Sunday
07/16/2020 – News Radio 780 WBBM – Swimmer Dies After Going Underwater For 40 Minutes In Lake Michigan At Promontory Point
07/16/2020 – WSBT – Michigan City looks to build barrier after scary video is shared online
07/16/2020 – Chicago Sun-Times – John Doe, M-?, Swimmer dies after going underwater for 40 minutes in Lake Michigan at Promontory Point. So far in 2020, at least 17 other people have drowned in Lake Michigan, according to the Great Lake Surf Project, which tracks drownings.
07/15/2020 – Detroit Feee Press – 2 children seen running as high waves almost take them underwater
07/15/2020 – CBS 2 Chicago – Video Shows Two Kids Nearly Swept Away By Waves On Michigan City Pier
07/15/2020 – Northwest Indiana Times – WATCH NOW: Footage of children nearly swept into Lake Michigan amid crashing waves
07/14/2020 – Fox 17 – Search for missing swimmer now a recovery mission in South Haven – The Great Lakes Surf Rescue project, a non-profit that keeps tabs of drownings, says so far this year 16 people have already drowned in Lake Michigan. “These numbers go up almost daily, this time of year,” said David Benjamin, co-founder and executive director. “Unfortunately this summer and every summer drowning is season.” Benjamin recommends families always bring a flotation device in case of an emergency.
07/13/2020 – BuzzFeed – Update: Search for man in water continues in South Haven, MI
07/12/2020 – Fox 6 News – Beach Hazard issued for some lakeshore counties Sunday
07/12/2020 – MLIVE – 6-foot waves, strong currents forecast for some Lake Michigan beaches on Sunday
07/12/2020 – The Detroit Free Press – It’s swimming season in Michigan’s lakes and rivers: Have fun but use caution
07/10/2020 – ABC 57 – Dangerous Outlook: Strong currents, high waves along Lake Michigan
07/10/2020 – NBC 26 Green Bay – STURGEON BAY (NBC 26) – A non-profit group that tracks drownings on the Great Lakes is warning that the deadly four W’s are in play: Warm, Wind, Waves and Weekend. They say it is a dangerous combination. The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project reports there have already been 30 Great Lakes drownings this year and more than half of those were in Lake Michigan. The Coast Guard recommends you play it safe. “If you have a kid, or pretty much anyone and you have them at the beach, put them in a life jacket. So, in case something does happen, and they get caught up in a current, that’s just extra protection for them just in case,” said Petty Officer Dennis Whartnaby with the Sturgeon Bay Coast Guard. According to the group’s figures, last year there were 97 drownings in the Great Lakes and Lake Michigan claimed 48 of those lives.
07/10/2020 – The Game 730 AM – DANGEROUS SWIMMING CONDITIONS TODAY ON LAKE MICHIGAN
07/10/2020 – Northwest Indiana Times – Beach swimming advisory extended into Saturday; storms to bring strong winds to Region, NWS says
07/10/2020 – Chicago Tribune – Chicago Heights boy, 12, drowns in Lake Michigan during family visit to Gary. A 12-year-old Chicago Heights boy drowned Thursday at Marquette Park Beach in Gary while visiting the beach with family, according to officials. Rescuers pulled Jarail C. Lee Jr., from the water at about 6:24 p.m., a little more than an hour after the boy disappeared under the water and did not resurface. The boy is the 16th person to drown in Lake Michigan so far this year, according to Dave Benjamin, executive director of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. GLSRP has tracked drownings throughout the five Great Lakes since 2010.So far in 2020 there have been 30 Great Lakes drownings and four victims that were taken to the hospital and listed in critical condition or condition unknown. It is not known if these drowning victims survived. “Once again Great Lakes drownings are on a record pace when compared to previous years,” Benjamin said. “At this pace we will likely have 100 Great Lakes drownings in 2020.” The water was relatively calm Thursday, though that is expected to change for the weekend. He said if the current forecast for Friday night to Sunday holds true, Lake Michigan will have high and turbulent surf, especially at the south end of the lake.
07/10/2020 – Record Eagle – Editorial: Enjoy beaches and lakes with care — Take a few moments this week, next week or whenever you next arrive at a beach or boat launch to redouble your water safety efforts. Don’t swim alone. Know your limits. Wear life jackets. Our lakes are immensely powerful, even when placid. They can be as dangerous as they are beautiful. Please join us in enjoying them with care.
07/09/2020 – The Sault News – Group says Great Lakes drowning cases spiked over holiday weekend
07/09/2020 – Northwest Indiana Times – UPDATE: Coroner identifies 12-year-old drowning victim
07/09/2020 – Chicago Tribune – Too many people are drowning. Here’s how to stay safe in Lake Michigan this summer. Learn to “flip, float, follow”: In a water emergency, the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project recommends that swimmers first flip over onto their back to float, then keeping the head above water, stay calm and follow the clearest path toward safety. The GLSRP has other tips here, and advice on what to do about a dangerous current here. If you are caught in a rip current, swim parallel to shore.
07/09/2020 – Windsor Star – UWindsor prof worries more beach goers could lead to more drownings
07/08/2020 – WGN 720 AM – Summer safety: Tips for staying safe around water – Dave Benjamin, Co-Founder of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, joins the Ji Suk Yi show to talk about important swimming safety tips to help you and your kids be safe this summer while in the water.
07/08/2020 – Chicago Sun-Times – Body of missing boater found in Monroe Harbor
Divers found Ameera Muhammad dead in the south end of the harbor within an hour of resuming the search 8:15 a.m. Wednesday in Lake Michigan
07/08/2020 – Fox 11– Swimmers should use caution on the Great Lakes
07/08/2020 – WWMT 3 – Fourth of July drowning numbers released, officials warn of dangerous water conditions
07/08/2020 – Detroit Free Press – Group says Great Lakes drowning cases spiked over holiday weekend
07/08/2020 – UpNorthLive – Report: 863 drownings in Great Lakes since 2010
07/08/2020 – Traverse City Record Eagle – Drownings spike during holiday weekend
07/07/2020 – WLNS – Safety tips before going to take a dip in the water
07/07/2020 – WBBM News Radio 780 – Swimmer In Critical Condition After Being Pulled From Lake Michigan Near Grant Park. So far in 2020, at least 10 people have drowned in Lake Michigan, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. In 2019, a total of 48 people drowned in Lake Michigan.
07/07/2020 – Chicago Sun-Times – Sailboat crash sends 4 into water at break wall near filtration plant. The occupants were picked up by the police boat. No one was injured. So far this year, at least 10 people have drowned in Lake Michigan, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. In 2019, a total of 48 people drowned in Lake Michigan.
07/07/2020 – Chicago Sun-Times – Chicago man drowns at Evanston beach – Marcos Quito was pulled from the water Monday at Clark Street Beach in the 1800 block of Sheridan Road, authorities said. Monday afternoon, a swimmer was in critical condition after being rescued from Lake Michigan near the Loop. So far this year, at least 10 other people have drowned in Lake Michigan, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. In 2019, a total of 48 people drowned in Lake Michigan.
07/07/2020 – Cleveland – U.S. Coast Guard saved 45 lives in Great Lakes over July 4 weekend – busiest Independence Day weekend in at least five years, conducting more than 100 search-and-rescue cases and saving or assisting more than 300 people throughout the region.
The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project has reported 21 drownings on the Great Lakes this year.
— Lake Michigan 10
— Lake Superior 1
— Lake Huron 0
— Lake Erie 6
— Lake Ontario 4
07/06/2020 – Chicago Sun-Times – Swimmer in critical condition after being pulled from Lake Michigan near Grant Park – The police marine unit responded Monday afternoon to the call of a man in the water in the 500 block of South Lake Shore Drive near Buckingham Fountain.
07/06/2020 – The Weather Network – How COVID-19 fatigue can lead to an increase in summer drownings
07/04/2020 – The Detroit News – The nonprofit Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project reports there have been 20 Great Lakes drownings so far in 2020, and the numbers could climb in the summer’s warmest months as people fail to prepare for hazards such as rip currents, said executive director Dave Benjamin. Monitoring for other issues also is key, he said. “Even if there’s calm water and a light breeze, inflatable beach toys can go out in the water and kids could chase it into water over their head.”
07/04/2020 – Ionia Sentinel Standard – Family hopes memorial plaque reminds swimmers of Lake Michigan dangers
07/03/2020 – Holland Sentinel – Family hopes memorial plaque reminds swimmers of Lake Michigan dangers
07/02/2020 – Fox 17 – New signs warn swimmers, honor young victim — New signs and safety rings were installed in his memory
07/02/2020 – WZZM 13 – Beach memorial serves as reminder of water safety — Brandon Schmidt drowned in Lake Michigan on August 15, 2018
“The township has made some change for water safety which we’re very appreciative,” says Brandon’s father James Schmidt. “Our son passed away here almost two years ago, and they’re installing a plaque in his memory along with those safety changes.”
“He was out here at the beach with some friends and unfortunately came under the water and he didn’t come up,” said James. “After that his mom went before the township board and talked to them and asked them to make some safety changes which they did. Now there are warning signs so people understand the dangers of rip currents.”
Signs of warning are now posted inside Windsnest Park alerting beach goers that no lifeguard is on duty. There are also signs warning the dangers of rip current. A rescue flotation device also now hangs along the boardwalk to the beach access, just beneath Brandon Schmidt’s memorial plaque.
“It’s really great to see that the Port Sheldon beach came through with their promise to install some of their water safety signage as well as some safety equipment,” says Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project executive director, Dave Benjamin.
To date, the GLSRP is tracking 20 Great Lakes drownings in 2020. According to GLSRP data, overall since 2010 they have tracked 858 Great Lakes drownings.
07/02/2020 – Wood TV – Family hopes memorial plaque reminds swimmers of Lake Michigan dangers. “We noticed that at that time there was no signage about the rip currents or the dangers of Lake Michigan,” James Schmidt said. “There (were) no life-saving flotation devices.”
Brandon Schmidt’s mother, Brandi Donley, turned grief into resolve, and then action. In November of that same year, she went to the Port Sheldon Township Board and pleaded for warning signs and other safety equipment.
“The township took action,” James Schmidt said. “So now, there is signage warning people about the rip currents. Warning people about the dangers in Lake Michigan. And there’s life-saving flotation devices.”
The family will probably never know how many people read the signs and heeded the warnings. Or how many lives may have been saved. But they feel in their hearts they made an impact. The plaque at the beach entrance, dedicated on the day before what would have been Brandon Schmidt’s 22nd birthday, is one more part of that effort. “What we hope is that, perhaps through our tragedy, more harms can be prevented, and lives can be saved,” James Schmidt said.
07/02/2020 – Chicago Tribune – Beachgoers, park officials sound alarm for Lake Michigan safety: ‘The majority of our drownings could be prevented’. The lifeguards at the state park are trained to watch for rip currents and shut down swimming if they spot them, she added. “Other beaches don’t have that,” she said, adding when unsafe conditions shut down swimming, swimmers sometimes go to an unguarded beach. “That’s one of our biggest worries. That’s why they shut the beach down. Rip currents are very serious and can pull you away from the beach.”
06/30/2020 – Northwest Indiana Times – Practicing beach safety: Experts weigh in on how to protect yourself, kids during summer
Lifeguards make all the difference. “I believe the best lifeguards you can find on the Great Lakes are surfers,” Benjamin said, because they learn how the waves break and how to conserve energy in the water.
“We want the lifeguards to understand that drowning is one of the largest causes of accidental death,” Benjamin said.
Lifeguards not only have to worry about saving a swimmer in trouble, but also themselves. A person who is drowning is in panic mode and can push a lifeguard or other would-be rescuer under water.
“Unfortunately, a drowning person can climb all over you, and a drowning person can take you under,” Benjamin said.
Knowing the statistics helps look for who is more likely to get into trouble.
Benjamin said 80% of all drowning victims are male.
“Males are more likely to take risks, more susceptible to peer pressure, more likely to overestimate their ability,” he said.
And it doesn’t matter how good a swimmer believes his or her ability is — “66% of all drowning victims were good swimmers,” Benjamin said.
When a swimmer gets in trouble, there’s typically less than one minute until final submersion, he said. Seconds count.
“You have seconds to get to a person before they submerge,” Benjamin aid.
In a lake, unlike in a pool, finding the submerged victim can be tricky because of the visibility and currents.
“Once they submerge, it could be like finding a moving needle in a moving haystack,” Benjamin said. “It becomes a frantic search.”
That response time is why Benjamin strongly urges going to a beach where lifeguards are on duty.
“If you go to a beach without lifeguards, you are on your own,” he said.
At Michigan City’s Washington Park, which doesn’t have lifeguards this year, there are life preserver rings along the pier, but they’re on the opposite side of the beach. There are two rings at the lifeguard station, but that’s set back from the water, Benjamin noted.
Think of the scenario at a beach with no lifeguard.
You’re in the water and see a swimmer in trouble. You either try to rescue the person yourself and risk your own life, or you rush back to your mobile phone and call 911. Minutes pass while you establish your location and get emergency responders to the scene.
Those first responders quickly determine how to coordinate their efforts, and whether tools like SONAR can help pinpoint the victim’s location, but by that time it could be a recovery effort rather than a rescue, Benjamin said.
“This is why lifeguards are so important. They’re first responders on the beach,” Benjamin said.
Learn water safety
Brock advises parents to teach children what to do if you get in trouble in the water.
“Knowing how to swim doesn’t mean you won’t drown,” Benjamin said.
Thatcher knew how to respond if he gets in trouble in the water. Relax, he said.
And float, Benjamin would add. “It’s not how well you can swim, but how well you can float.”
Floating means getting your head above water, becoming more buoyant, and taking deep breaths of air instead of short gulps of water while hyperventilating during a panic attack.
When you’re floating and in control of your natural urge to panic, you can then wave your arm or shout for help, Benjamin said.
“We need to make a cultural change,” Benjamin said, to teach water safety skills early and often.
Schools with pools teach children water safety, but that should happen at all schools, Benjamin said. Being in the water, practicing swimming and floating, helps, but learning the technique could be drilled into students in an auditorium.
“We don’t light kids on fire to teach them ‘stop, drop and roll,’” Benjamin said.
06/26/2020 – Grand Haven Tribune – Swimmers, boaters asked to prepare before heading out on Lake Michigan – Push for lifeguards on beaches
Dave Benjamin, executive director of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, has been pushing for communities to use lifeguards on Great Lakes beaches.
“A lifeguard’s job is to get to the drowning victim before the submersion, interrupt the drowning process, provide flotation and bring the victim back to shore alive,” he said. “And, according to ‘The Process of Drowning Timeline,’ lifeguards are a drowning person’s only hope.”
According to the timeline, it takes less than a minute of struggling in the water for a drowning person to submerge. At around 3 minutes of submersion, the heart stops. At around 4 minutes, irreversible brain damage begins.
Even though first responders can often be at the scene within four minutes, this doesn’t take into account how much time it takes for people to call for help, Benjamin says.
He adds that, at around 10 minutes of submersion, a person only has a 14 percent chance of survival. And those who do survive will likely have brain damage.
Plus, he says, there’s the cost of lifeguards versus a body recovery. Benjamin says the average cost per hour for a U.S. Coast Guard response boat is about $4,500. A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter can run as high as $16,000 per hour.
Swintek said boats responding from Grand Haven run in the range of $3,000 to $4,800 per hour, depending on the vessel, its equipment and how much fuel it burns. Running a helicopter out of its summer birth in Muskegon (HH-65 Dolphin) costs about $10,000 per hour. If it comes from Traverse City (HH-60 Jayhawk), the cost is about $11,000 per hour.
Hawke said it would be great to have the funds to pay for lifeguards. In absence of that, he noted that the Grand Haven Department of Public Safety is a leader in water rescue training and is often called to help train personnel from other agencies.
Hawke said that all Grand Haven public safety officers are trained in water safety and water rescue. The officers have new rescue suits and equipment purchased in 2017 through a donation from the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation.
In 2019, Grand Haven State Park and City Beach posted numbered area signs to help get first responders where they are needed more quickly.
A full-time seasonal officer is also assigned to off-road vehicle patrol of the City Beach and state park, Hawke said. The officer carries rescue equipment and responds to rescue calls.
There are also life rings, an emergency phone and camera system reinstalled on the pier since the recent catwalk replacement.
“Hiring full-time lifeguards is a significant, on-going budget commitment which is a challenge for lakeshore communities,” Hawke noted.
06/24/2020 – ABC 7 – CHICAGO – Keeping Chicago beaches closed could be dangerous, safety experts say
Without lifeguards on duty to watch over those who choose to swim in Lake Michigan, experts are worried it could be a recipe for disaster.
“So much of our lakefront is right up to residences where kids have access to these parks and to the beaches and to the water and we’re doing nothing to protect them,” said Halle Quezada of Chicago Alliance for Water Safety.
Chicago says many social distancing ambassadors are also trained lifeguards. But, they may not necessarily be in a position to help in case of trouble.
“Their backs are to the water, so it could be lifeguards serving as social distance ambassadors, but they’re not lifeguarding,” Quezada said. “Time matters in a drowning incident.”
06/24/2020 – Chicago Sun-Times – Plainfield man drowns at Indiana Dunes National Park. So far in 2020, eight other people have died of drowning in Lake Michigan, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.
06/22/2020 – ABC 57 – Man sacrifices life to rescue 8-year-old drowning in Saint Joseph River – “We see someone in trouble and we immediately want to help, it’s our instinct to just take action,” said Dave Benjamin from Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. But Benjamin says jumping in isn’t the first thing we should do in an emergency. You should immediately throw a flotation device into the water.
As for the person drowning — “You flip over on your back and float,” said Benjamin. “Float to keep your head above water, float to calm yourself down from fear of drowning, float to conserve your energy and then follow a safe path out of the water.”
Also, it’s important for people to be able to spot active signs of drowning. “Facing shore, mouth at water level, head titled back, their body is vertical, less than one minute until submersion,” said Benjamin. And most importantly, Benjamin says you should always have life jackets when around any body of water. “We don’t want someone’s special day at the beach or on the water to become a lifelong tragedy that they now have to bear the burden of.”
Another water safety tip Benjamin’s notes is when renting a kayak or paddle board, you should always ask for a safety briefing beforehand and make sure there is a leash attached to the equipment so you can be pulled back to shore if you have any problems.
06/21/2020 – NBC 5 – Illinois Coronavirus Updates: New Social Distancing Ambassadors, More People at Beaches – Water Safety Concerns Are on the Rise as More People Head to Area Beaches
Since pools closed for summer, more people are heading to the beach. But with high water levels and erosion leading to smaller beach fronts, many are packing in, leading to increased concern over water safety.
Dave Benjamin, co-founder of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, has used this time to educate the public about the risks involved. GLSRP is a non-profit group that tracks drowning statistics and performs presentations and training around the Midwest.
“It’s not common sense that panic is the first stage of drowning. It’s not common knowledge that 66% of all drowning victims were good strong confident swimmers. Knowing how to swim is not enough. You need to know how to survive,” Benjamin said.
Since 2010, there have been more than 850 drownings in the Great Lakes. Benjamin said he hopes to eradicate tragedy with the mantra: Flip, float, follow.
06/21/2020 – CBS 2 – Summer Swimming Safety Tips As Indiana Beaches Reopen – CHICAGO — Beaches are still closed in Illinois, but they are opening up in Indiana. A group that promotes swimming safety says it is a good time to brush on some common sense rules. Dave Benjamin of The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project gave a safety presentation at Wells Street Beach in Gary Saturday. About 30 moms, dads and kids learned how to tell when a swimmer is in trouble and some basic first aid that can save lives. They also discussed surviving hazardous currents and how to use floatation devices and other safety equipment.
06/20/2020 – NBC 5 – Water Safety Concerns Are on the Rise as More People Head to Area Beaches. Since 2010, there have been 854 drownings in the Great Lakes, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. Since pools closed for summer, more people are heading to the beach. But with high water levels and erosion leading to smaller beach fronts, many are packing in, leading to increased concern over water safety. Dave Benjamin, co-founder of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, has used this time to educate the public about the risks involved. GLSRP is a non-profit group that tracks drowning statistics and performs presentations and training around the Midwest. “It’s not common sense that panic is the first stage of drowning. It’s not common knowledge that 66% of all drowning victims were good strong confident swimmers. Knowing how to swim is not enough. You need to know how to survive,” Benjamin said.
06/20/2020 – ABC 7 – Lake Michigan lifeguards emphasize water safety on 1st day of Summer to prevent unintentional drownings
06/15/2020 – The Mikey O Show – Drowning survivor, Evelyn Hernandez, and GLSRP Executive Director, Dave Benjamin, talk about Lake Michigan water safety on the Mikey O Show.
06/14/2020 – NWI Times – MICHIGAN CITY, IN – BYSTANDER RESCUE – NO LIFEGUARDS – two kids were walking along the pier near the lighthouse at Washington Park Beach and ended up in the water. It wasn’t clear if the kids were swimming or had fallen in. Ultimately, the children needed to be rescued. A good Samaritan jumped in the water and saved the children and had a life ring thrown out to them before the Coast Guard arrived on scene. According to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, there have been eight drownings, along with one unknown condition, at Lake Michigan since Jan. 1.
06/11/2020 – WNDU TV 16 – Safety reminders on avoiding beach hazards this summer
06/11/2020 – WNDU TV 16 – Great Lakes Beach Hazard & Safety Awareness Week
06/11/2020 – WNDU TV 16 – Facebook Live – GLSRP and WNDU TV News water safety segment.
06/10/2020 – WXYZ Detroit – Officials emphasize safety after 2 drown in Lake Michigan
06/09/2020 – Huron Daily Tribune – Officials emphasize safety after 2 drown in Lake Michigan
06/09/2020 – Holland Sentinel – COVID furloughs meant no warning flags on Holland beach as two boys drowned
It was a deadly weekend on the Great Lakes, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, an organization that tracks drownings on the Great Lakes.
Dave Benjamin, executive director of public relations and project management at GLSRP, said he was aware of three other likely drownings in the last several days, including a father and son who capsized in Lake Erie and a body that was recovered from Lake Michigan in Chicago.
Benjamin said it’s time for Holland State Park to hire lifeguards.
“There is no excuse to continue to operate these beaches without lifeguards,” Benjamin said. “It’s irresponsible and dangerous, and people die from it.”
The beach was closed to the public Saturday evening and Sunday morning as the search resumed.
Lifeguards are trained to recognize the signs of drowning, which Benjamin said many people misunderstand. Drowning victims often appear to be treading water and often do not wave their arms or yell.
If a person is drowning, there’s a very small window — about four minutes — to rescue them without irreversible brain damage, or, in the worst-case scenario, death.
Benjamin said lifeguards stationed at the beach would be able to respond more quickly to a drowning or a missing child situation than emergency services.
GLSRP recommends the “flip, float, follow” method for drowning survival: flip onto your back, float to keep your head above water and conserve energy and follow the safest path out of the water to safety.
06/09/2020 – MLIVE – Double drowning tragedy underscores danger of Great Lakes – “The thing about drowning is it’s 100 percent preventable,” said David Benjamin, executive director of public relations at the Great Lakes Rescue Surf Project. His organization presents hundreds of educational programs each year, and at the start of each one gives a “pop quiz” on water safety, Benjamin said.
“Ninety percent in attendance will say they know how to swim, and less than 5 percent will know a drowning survival strategy,” he said.
Benjamin is a strong advocate for lifeguards, which most Lake Michigan beaches don’t have. Absent them, it’s up to swimmers to know how to save themselves.
It typically takes too long to get first responders to the scene of a possible drowning for them to perform an actual rescue, Benjamin said.
Educators like Benjamin want the phrase “Flip, Float and Follow” to become as well known as the “Stop, Drop and Roll” instructions for those who catch on fire.
Swimmers who are struggling in water over their heads need to flip on their backs, float to calm themselves and keep their heads above water and then follow – go with, rather than fight – the current until they are able to swim toward shore. Swimming parallel to shore typically is the most effective way of getting out of a current.
06/07/2020 – WNDU – Great Lakes Beach Hazard & Water Safety Awareness Week runs from June 7-13
06/03/2020 – South Bend Tribune – How to avoid crowds and COVID-19 at shrunken beaches of Lake Michigan – Michigan City decided against posting lifeguards at its beach this summer, a move that drew sharp criticism from the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project as its director, Dave Benjamin, said, “Removing lifeguards will cost lives and the cost to recover a body is much greater than the lifeguards’ salaries.”
The advocacy group reported 48 drownings in Lake Michigan in 2019, two of them in Michigan City and seven total in northwest Indiana, according to The Times of Northwest Indiana.
City officials countered that the pandemic interfered with their ability to recruit and train lifeguards and argued that rescues could put guards at risk of the virus, The Times reported.
05/29/2020 – Chicago Tribune – Column: Near-drowning experience prompts Hobart man to alert others to summertime hazard as beaches reopen
As cliché as it sounds to anyone who hasn’t had a near-death experience, Bokun’s life flashed through his mind, he said. He thought about his wife, Elise, his children, his granddaughter, and even his unborn grandchildren he hopes to enjoy someday. Faces of close friends and family members also flashed by. All in a matter of seconds.
“In that moment, as I yelled out, I felt a peaceful calm come over me,” Bokun recalled.
In a moment that will not ever be forgotten or dismissed, Bokun began reflecting on what just happened to him. The cold water. The panic. The terror. The flash of memories. The odd yet peaceful calm.
“It was the scariest thing, but…” Bokun told me after his family returned from Tennessee.
But… the experience has somehow changed him. Almost immediately. Without a doubt, profoundly, though he’s not quite sure how. Not yet. He’s still processing it
That day, Bokun returned to the family’s rented home near Spencer, Tennessee, joining his wife, his daughter, Alissa Baron, and other family members. Bokun never once thought about the dangers of hypothermia while swimming under a waterfall, especially in springtime in Tennessee.
“I never thought of any of that before jumping into the water,” Bokun said.
With summer weather here, people will be jumping into the potentially dangerous waters of Lake Michigan more often than in previous years, I predict. Most public swimming pools will be closed due to COVID-19 concerns and other entertainment options such as fairs and festivals are getting canceled for the summer season.
Also factor in that some budget-restricted municipalities, such as Michigan City, are not hiring lifeguards this year. Water levels are higher, beaches are thinner and more people will be converging at beaches for outdoor recreation. (Read my previous column on Indiana Dunes State Park beach last weekend as an example.)
My other prediction: There will be more drownings than usual in our nearest Great Lake. This possibility has been a public health danger for many years, as anyone knows who keeps track of these deaths and near deaths.
According to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, there have already been at least five Great Lakes drownings this year, with three of them in Lake Michigan. Keep in mind that summer is still three weeks away, officially.
Since 2010, the organization has tracked 843 Great Lakes drownings, with 97 in 2019 and a record 117 in 2018. Drownings in Lake Michigan are a statistical surety.
Dave Benjamin, executive director of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, told me that the Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk is a hazard for potential drownings.
“The water erosion and debris is out of control. No one should go swimming there,” he said.
It hasn’t stopped visitors from swimming there this spring. And it won’t stop them as summer emerges. The water beckons visitors like a dip under a waterfall.
I’ve written too many columns on drowning deaths in Lake Michigan. Bokun has read too many stories about people who’ve drowned in that lake without the stereotypical image of flailing arms and desperate screams. Many of those victims simply go under and don’t come up.
“They say when you drown there’s no pain because when you yell there’s no one there to hear you,” Bokun said.
05/28/2020 – NWI Times – Pandemic squashes hiring of lifeguards, officials say; safety advocates contend danger’s ahead
05/28/2020 – Journal Sentinel – Wisconsin’s closed pools, lack of beach lifeguards and high water levels create ‘the perfect storm’ for Great Lakes drownings
With many public pools closed this summer because of coronavirus, folks looking to cool off will likely head to packed beaches.
Strapped local governments are not hiring lifeguards, which means places like Bradford Beach in Milwaukee won’t be staffed to handle emergencies.
Add in record high Lake Michigan water levels, which can create bigger waves and stronger rip currents, plus erosion that has reduced the size of some beaches, and it’s no wonder Great Lakes water safety officials are worried.
Last year there were 97 drownings on the Great Lakes — roughly half on Lake Michigan — and a record 117 in 2018.
“It’s kind of the perfect storm for Great Lakes drownings,” said Dave Benjamin, executive director of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.
“Higher water levels, smaller beaches, more people on the beach, it’s easy to lose track of your children on a crowded beach.
“And canceling lifeguards is a huge setback,” Benjamin said.
This week Bradford Beach has been crammed as temperatures hit the 70s and 80s.
A fully staffed Bradford Beach would have 14 lifeguards working seven days a week for 10 weeks at a total cost of $70,000.
Benjamin cautioned that most drownings don’t look like what happens in a movie — people don’t wave their arms and thrash around.
Instead, drownings are subtle and look like someone with their head above water. Which can mean someone who is fine or someone about to slip beneath the surface.
That’s where lifeguards who know what to look for and typically sit on high platforms can notice someone about to drown, Benjamin said.
Jamie Racklyeft, executive director of the Great Lakes Water Safety Consortium, pointed out that untrained beachgoers who try to save someone in distress often become casualties themselves. Since drownings happen within minutes, calling 911 to summon help often means first responders end up recovering bodies rather than saving lives.
Plus most people think they know how to swim and are unaware how quickly a rip current can pull them or their companions away from shore.
Swimmers who find themselves in trouble should follow the drowning survival strategy of flip, float and follow — flipping on their back to stay calm, floating to conserve energy and following the safest path out of the water which often means swimming parallel to the shore when caught in a rip current.
05/26/2020 – CBS 58 – Staying Safe on Lake Michigan As Temps Warm — With warm weather finally here, many folks may flock to the beach to stay cool over the coming months. And we want you to stay safe from dangerous swimming conditions this season. According to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, there were 97 drownings on the Great Lakes last year. The year prior to that had a record 117 fatalities. Sadly, most of these drownings happen on our nearby pond, Lake Michigan. This year already reports 5 deaths, again the majority on Lake Michigan. The eastern shore is particularly hazardous due to the prevailing wind direction leading to favorable current development. Locally, since 2002, there have been 17 related deaths at Lake Michigan beaches from Sheboygan to Kenosha.
05/25/2020 – Herald-Argus – Water safety activist says not having lifeguards ‘will cost lives’
05/25/2020 – WSBT-TV – No Lifeguards, Michigan City Warns Beachgoers to Swim at their Own Risk
05/24/2020 – ABC 57 – Beachgoers angry as Michigan City declines to provide lifeguards — MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. — A water safety advocate and other beachgoers are calling out local government officials after the city reportedly decided not to include lifeguards at Washington Park Beach for Summer 2020, including this weekend.
05/24/2020 – Record Eagle – Warm air, cold water create deadly situation — The frigid water, high water levels and the fact that public pools are closed because of COVID-19 have created the perfect storm for cold water drownings, said Dave Benjamin, executive director of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, a nonprofit that tracks drownings and advocates for Great Lakes water safety.
“We’re going to have a lot of people at the beach,” Benjamin said.
Statistics at the organization’s website show that 843 people have drowned in the Great Lakes since 2010, with 97 of them taking place last year.
So far this year there have been five Great Lakes drownings, three of them in Lake Michigan.
Boat sales have also spiked nationally, according to International Boat Industry magazine, which means there will be a lot of inexperienced first-time boat owners out there, Benjamin said. They may not understand the need to check weather conditions before going out or realize the dangers of jumping off a boat to take a swim, he said.
Add to that the amount of trees and other debris that has washed into the Great Lakes with the high water and becoming another hazard for boaters and swimmers alike, he said.
“All these hazards are leading right into Memorial weekend,” Benjamin said.
Water that is below 70 degrees is considered dangerous and can quickly lead to hypothermia and death, according to the National Center for Cold Water Safety.
Benjamin cites the 1-10-1 rule of hypothermia for anyone considering a swim in dangerously cold waters: One minute to control your breathing, 10 minutes until you are unable to move, one hour for hypothermia to set in.
The rule was coined by Gordon Giesbrecht, a Canadian physiologist who has studied the effects of extreme cold on the body.
Sudden immersion in cold water causes a gasp reflex and hyperventilation, with a person having about a minute to get their breathing under control before drowning. If they can do that, they’ll have about 10 minutes until incapacitation sets in and a person loses the ability to move and is unable to swim to shore or climb back into a boat.
Hypothermia will set in over the next hour. A person will become unconscious and their heart will stop.
“If a person doesn’t have a life jacket they are going to die of drowning before they die of hypothermia,” Benjamin said.
It takes three minutes of submersion in water for a person’s heart to stop; after four minutes irreversible brain damage begins. After 10 minutes underwater there is about a 14 percent revival rate, and most will be left with a traumatic brain injury, Benjamin said.
Life jackets are required by law for anyone going out in a boat, but it does no good if they are not wearing it, Belanger said. He has seen people who struggled to put one on after a kayak rolls over, but the lake just tears it away.
“Unless you have the darn thing on, it doesn’t do you any good,” Belanger said.
05/25/2020 – Herald-Argus – Water safety activist says not having lifeguards ‘will cost lives’
05/23/2020 – Windsor News – Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project looking to flatten the curve of drownings – WINDSOR, ONT. — As Coronavirus cabin fever mixes with summer excitment, many people want to get out and jump in the pool or lake.
“This summer we could see the perfect storm for drownings in the Great Lakes region.” said Dave Benjamin, executive director of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. “Many public pools across the Great Lakes region may be closed for the summer or have delayed openings, which means that many more people will be going to the beach.”
Since 2010, The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project (GLSRP) has tracked over 843 Great Lakes drownings.
The not-for-profit group says drowning numbers will go down as more people, especially children, are educated about the many aspects of water safety.
The project wants everyone to learn the drowning survival technique; ‘flip, float and follow‘.
Executive director of education, Bob Pratt says it’s like the ‘stop, drop and roll‘ of water safety. “It gives kids something to focus on if they are struggling in the water. Flip over onto their back so they can breath when they want to, float to calm themselves down, float to conserve their energy and then follow a safe course back to safety. If we can just control that panic and get people to calm down, they’re half way to being saved.”
05/22/2020 – News Dispatch – Water safety activist says not having lifeguards ‘will cost lives’ – MICHIGAN CITY — A decision to terminate the lifeguard program at Washington Park beach will “cost lives,” according to a man who tracks drownings on the Great Lakes
“With many beaches closed due to erosion, Washington Park will see an increase in visitors,” said Dave Benjamin, co-founder and executive director of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.
“Our visitors have come to expect lifeguards at Washington Park. Our lakefront is a deceptively dangerous place to swim. We need lifeguards at Washington Park.”
He said not only do “Lifeguards save lives,” but they “educate the public about their specific beach hazards when patrons come to the beach.
“Removing lifeguards will cost lives and the cost to recover a body is much greater than the lifeguards’ salaries.”
He cited the cost of the body recovery for the U.S. Coast Guard, county dive teams, police departments, and fire departments, as well as the overtime and fuel for the helicopter and boats used in the recovery.
He cited news reports that a Coast Guard helicopter search can run as high as $16,000 an hour.
“That’s $384,000 per 24-hour day just for the Coast Guard response,” Benjamin said. “Add the city and county resources and you can run almost $500,000 a day for a single body recovery.”
He said it makes more sense “to spend that money on the front end” by providing lifeguards.
“In addition there’s the lost revenue for closing the beach and negative publicity to overcome with the drowning. Lifeguards make sense … Common sense and financial sense,” Benjamin said.
Other Indiana beaches with lifeguards include Whiting, Gary, West Beach in the Indiana Dunes National Park, and Indiana Dunes State Park, he said.
Even with lifeguards at many beaches, the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project expects to see an increase in drownings this summer.
As of April 9, there have been five drownings in the Great Lakes so far in 2020, three in Lake Michigan. In 2019, there were 97 drownings in the Great Lakes, 48 in Lake Michigan, according to the GLSRP.
Nine of last year’s drowning were in Northwest Indiana, including two in Michigan City.
Since 2010 there have been more than 843 drownings in the Great Lakes, and for the 2020 swim season “several factors could lead to a deadly summer,” Benjamin said.
Those include “coronavirus cabin fever”; public pools being closed, cold lake water, high water levels, beach erosion and debris in the lake.
“As states start to loosen shelter-in-place restrictions and the economy restarts, people want to get out,” Benjamin said.
“This summer we could see the perfect storm for drownings in the Great Lakes region. Many public pools may be closed or have delayed openings, which means that many more people will be going to the beach.”
Natural factors could also add to the danger, he said.
“Because of the higher water levels and erosion, many beaches will have less beach space, so even as social distancing measures are put in place, beaches could still end up packed.”
And boat sales are up across the country as Americans search for socially distant fun, he said.
“There may be a lot of first-time boat buyers on the Great Lakes and they need to understand the basics of water safety like filing float plans, understanding changing marine forecasts, avoiding extra debris in the water, wearing lifejackets, and surviving cold water immersion,” Benjamin said. For more information on water safety, visit www.glsrp.org/water-safety/.
05/21/2020 – News Dispatch – Budget woes, lack of applicants mean no lifeguards at Washington Park – MICHIGAN CITY —Visitors to the lakefront at Washington Park are advised to swim at their own risk this summer, as the city has not hired lifeguards for the season.
City Controller Yvonne Hoffmaster broke the news to the Michigan City Common Council during a workshop on city finances Tuesday.
And despite the disapproval of several council members, Mayor Duane Parry said Thursday during a telephone interview that his hands are tied.
“Normally, Michigan City doesn’t start their lifeguards until Memorial Day weekend,” he said. “And so we sent out a letter on Feb. 6 announcing that we were going to be recruiting lifeguards; and then we did a press release on Feb. 7. But we got no replies.”
The initial lack of response was not concerning for Parry, he said, as it would be months until lifeguards would be needed. And when the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the city in mid-March, the lifeguard issue fell off his radar.
“We already knew that we were going to be tight financially,” he said. “But we didn’t know exactly how tight we were going to be. We were still resolving the $3.4 million shortfall that we discovered shortly after I took office in January.”
As Hoffmaster explained during Tuesday’s council workshop, the city has lost $1.1 million in revenue per month since the Blue Chip Casino and Washington Park shut down.
She discussed the city’s cash flow projections through September and other additional revenues, noting that if the casino and park were to remain closed throughout the summer, the Municipal Fund would go into the red by October unless the city were to borrow from itself or another source.
But the city began issuing park stickers on Thursday, and will begin collecting for parking at Washington Park on Saturday.
And Hoffmaster has been researching how the city might have access to coronavirus relief funds from the federal and state governments.
Also good for city finances will be the $1.7 million in pension relief funds scheduled to arrive before the end of May; the anticipated reopening of the casino on June 14; and tax disbursements that should be released within the next several weeks.
She projected the city’s cash balance at the end of the year will be just over $6 million; and for a point of reference, noted it was just over $12 million on Jan. 1.
“Looking forward to the end of the year, our cash position to me is still concerning,” Hoffmaster said. “We are going to continue to limit spending and watch our revenues closely…
“I believe with close monitoring and watchful spending, that the city will come out of this on the other side OK, and that we will not have to reduce our workforce or reduce any of the services that our … residents have become used to.”
Of course, residents are used to having lifeguards at the Washington Park beach.
The mayor said Thursday that it worked out for city finances that only one lifeguard application has been submitted this year, as the city typically spends $130,000 per summer on lifeguard wages.
So, instead of manning the lifeguard station, “Swim At Your Own Risk” signs will be installed, and the Michigan City Police Department will perform frequent beach patrols, he said.
“People don’t realize how much we’ve been cutting ends because we don’t know how long the COVID pandemic is going to last,” Parry said. “We couldn’t go on at our current expenditures like nothing is wrong because we would have been out of money by July 15.
“I’m not unsympathetic. … But my job is the survival of Michigan City and its future. So, that’s what motivated me to take the position that this year we’re not going to have lifeguards.”
05/11/2020 – HF Chronicle – After nearly drowning, Homewood man works for prevention
04/23/2020 – Chicago Tribune – Community news: Homewood man named Lifesaver of the Year for drowning prevention efforts — Homewood resident Dave Benjamin, cofounder and executive director of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, has won the 2020 National Drowning Prevention Alliance’s “Lifesaver of the Year” award.
04/14/2020 – Patch – Homewood Man Wins ‘Lifesaver of The Year’ Award – Dave Benjamin has been recognized for his efforts to prevent drownings across the Great Lakes.
04/02/2020 – NDPA Lifesaver of the Year Award Acceptance Speech
01/13/2020 – Up North Live – Army Corps of Engineers: High water levels cause increase in Great Lakes hazards
01/13/2020 – WBCK FM – Six Ways High Lake Levels Can Kill You – 3. Rip Currents… To get out of a rip current, it is advised to “Flip, Float, Follow” until the current subsides to save your energy and reduce your risk of drowning.
12/27/2019 – MLIVE – Beach town seeks input on lifeguards, fines for swimmers after spike in Lake Michigan drownings – SOUTH HAVEN, MI — Residents in a Southwest Michigan city are encouraged to take a survey meant to help city leaders make the shoreline community safer after an increased number of drownings seen in Lake Michigan this year.
12/24/2019 – WWMT – Top 3 West Michigan weather stories of 2019 — New statistics from the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project showed Lake Michigan drowning deaths were up compared to 2018. Through July 31, 2019, there were 52 Great Lakes drownings, with 27 of those occurring in Lake Michigan, making 2019 a 80% increase through the start of August.
11/17/2019 – Valliant News – Michigan mission: Reduce drownings – Nonprofit groups, such as the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, have been teaching school children of all ages about water safety and what to do in the event of a potential drowning. “There’s been a real push in education the past couple years because the statistics are increasing,” said Sue Jennings, a wildlife biologist at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore on Lake Michigan. She also serves as a peer counselor for staff and visitors in times of tragedies or rescue operations. The park had three drownings last year. “You know there have been drownings over the years, but it’s not until you start adding them up that you go, ‘Wow,’” she said.
10/25/2019 – NBC 5 Brandt Miller – In 2012 the GLSRP pioneered the “Flip, Float, and Follow” drowning survival technique to the public and media, and here is a Chicagoland woman crediting it for saving her life when she was on vacation this October. “Flip, Float and Follow” is the result of input from a variety of first responders and water safety groups that participated in the Great Lakes Water Safety Conference, sponsored by Michigan Sea Grant in 2011. In the spring of 2012, the GLSRP endorsed Flip, Float, and Follow and have been advocating it to the media and public ever since.
10/13/2019 – Holland Sentinel – Deadly currents stalk swimmers
10/01/2010 – The News Dispatch – Splashing around to save lives – Coolspring kids get tips on not becoming a Lake Michigan statistic
09/25/2019 – The Great Lakes Echo – Would lifeguards make the Great Lakes safer?
09/20/2019 – Capital News Service – Would lifeguards make the Great Lakes safer?
09/19/2019 – WWMT – New life jacket loaner station hopes to curb Lake Michigan drownings — Safe Kids of Greater South Haven, led by Bronson South Haven Hospital, spearheaded the project. The group worked with volunteer Deegan Boyles, who build the loaner station as his eagle scout project in memory of his grandfather. Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project reported 36 drownings on Lake Michigan so far this year as of September 19, 2019.
09/18/2019 – MLIVE – Man stranded on Northern Michigan pier by high waves, rescued by Coast Guard — The man, who was in his 40s and not local to the Frank-Elberta area, planned to stay overnight on the pier on Thursday, Sept. 12. He woke Friday morning to find he couldn’t get back to shore because 3- to 4-foot waves were crashing over the walkway. He was rescued around 11 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 13, and handed over a gear box before getting on the Coast Guard vessel. During this year of record and near-record lake levels in the Great Lakes, drownings in Lake Michigan stand at 36, according to Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. There have been 76 in all five Great Lakes as of Sept. 18.
09/11/2019 – Cleveland.com – After kayaker death, Cuyahoga River Safety Task Force talks safety measures
08/31/2019 – WNEM 5 – How to stay safe in the water this Labor Day weekend
08/31/2019 – Mining Journal – High water – Officials urge caution at beaches, breakwaters, harbors, marinas
08/30/2019 – WSBT – Experts talk about how to stay safe in the water for Labor Day weekend
08/29/2019 – Univision – Revelan preocupante cifra por ahogamientos en el lago Michigan en lo que va del 2019. La organización Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project dio a conocer que en el lago se han registrado en total 27 muertes durante este año, es decir, 12 más que en el mismo periodo del 2018. Piden tomar precauciones al entrar al agua.
08/27/2019 – The Weather Channel – Lake Michigan’s Deadly Waves Prompt Warnings for Swimmers and Boaters in Illinois and Michigan
08/26/2019 – Univision – Revelan alarmantes cifras de muertes por ahogamiento en el lago Michigan – Según datos de Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, una organización que monitorea accidentes
08/26/2019 – NBC 5 Chicago – Lake Michigan Safety Warning – Strong winds and dangerous waves continued to kick up on Chicago’s lakefront Monday after a weekend in which two people died in drownings. NBC 5’s Christian Farr reports.
08/25/2019 – WLS 7 Chicago – Beach Hazard in effect for 5th day; 2 drown in Lake Michigan over weekend
O8/25/2019 – CBS 2 Chicago – Potentially Life-Threatening Waves, Currents Persist On Lake Michigan
08/25/2019 – WLS 7 Chicago – 2 men drown in Lake Michigan over weekend; 14 rescued after boat capsizes
08/23/2019 – NBC KWQC – Illinois man dies while trying to save girl in Lake Michigan
08/23/2019 – News Dispatch – Body found off West Beach in Porter County
08/23/2019 – WBEZ – 10:05:37 AM: …Ireland jumped into grab her but was overwhelmed by the waves by cards Rescue the girl to the D.A. died despite efforts to revive him the National weather service says waves could be as high as 6 feet today through the evening great lakes Surf Rescue Project says more than 30 people have down like michigan illinois and other States
08/22/2019 – CBS 2 Chicago – 34 Drownings In Lake Michigan So Far This Year, Advocacy Group Says
08/20/2019 – Detroit Free Press – Warren teen falls in Lake Huron at Port Austin, nearly drowns
08/06/2019 – WTMJ 4 – Search for missing swimmer changed to recovery effort
08/06/2019 – MLIVE – Search continues for teen who went missing in Lake Michigan
08/06/2019 – MLIVE – South Haven residents push for lifeguards after rash of Lake Michigan drownings
08/06/2019 – Holland Sentinel – Report shows Lake Michigan drownings up 87 percent
08/05/2019 – CBS 3 WWMT – UPDATED South Haven public brings lifeguard concerns to city council
08/05/2019 – CBS 3 WWMT – South Haven public scheduled to bring lifeguard concerns to city council
08/05/2019 – CBC – 2019 on track for record number of Great Lakes drownings
08/04/2019 – WZZM – Lake Michigan drownings up 87% in 2019, group says – To date in 2019, there have been 54 drownings in all the Great Lakes.
08/03/2019 – NBC 5 Chicago – Lake Michigan drownings up 87% over last year.
08/03/2019 – Chicago Press – Group: Lake Michigan Drownings up 87% Over Last Year
08/01/2019 – WBEZ – Morning Shift – Lake Michigan Drownings Are On The Rise. Here’s Your Water Safety Primer.
08/01/2019 – WWMT – Lake Michigan drownings up 80% over last year
08/01/2019 – NBC 25 News – Ascension Genesys Health Club explains rip current danger
07/31/2019 – Lakeshore Public Radio – All Things Considered – Regionally Speaking – Today: We talk with Dave Benjamin of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project about the alarming number of drownings in Lake Michigan this year — although he says it’s been worse in the past. He talks about a recent rescue effort that he personally joined in, at Washington Park beach in Michigan City, and offers tips to swimmers when they step into Lake Michigan.
07/31/2019 – Rogers Edge Reporter – Wave Warning Once Again on Lakefront Beaches
07/31/2019 – FOX News 11 – Great Lakes water levels raise breakwater safety concerns
07/31/2019 – WMUK 102.1 – Safety Group Says Great Lakes Drownings Are Preventable
07/30/2019 – Duluth Tribune – Lake Michigan drownings up 80% from this time last year
This year, more people have drowned in Lake Michigan than the other Great Lakes combined.
07/30/2019 – CBS 2 Chicago – Threat Of Dangerous Waves, Currents Prompts Warning About Beach Hazards
07/30/2019 – Holland Sentinel – Police: Being a hero isn’t always the safest bet during water rescues
07/30/2019 – WKZO – Great Lakes drowning deaths are now over 50 so far this year – Lake Michigan has the highest rate of drowning occurrences.
07/30/2019 – WTVB – Great Lakes drowning deaths are now over 50 so far this year – Lake Michigan has the highest rate of drowning occurrences.
07/30/2019 – ABC 57 – Lake Michigan drownings are way up in 2019
07/30/2019 – Tri-County Times – Drowning deaths up on Lake Michigan – Swimmers and boaters on Great Lakes and inland lakes should heed caution from ‘pop up’ storms and high winds
07/30/2019 – Click On Detroit – Officials issue warning about massive uptick in Great Lakes drownings this year – Drowning deaths on Lake Michigan up 80% this year
07/30/2019 – Herald Mail Media – Lake Michigan drownings up 80% from this time last year
07/30/2019 – Fox 17 – Lake Michigan drownings nearly double; on pace to be the deadliest year on the Great Lakes
07/30/2019 – Northwest Indiana Times – Victim of state park drowning identified; incident believed accidental
07/30/2019 – Huron Daily Tribune – Boaters rescue teen swept off pier into Lake Michigan
07/30/2019 – MLIVE – Great Lakes drowning deaths increasing, Lake Michigan drownings have nearly doubled
07/29/2019 – News/Talk 94.9 WSJM – Lake Michigan Drownings In 2019 Up Sharply From 2018
07/29/2019 – CBS 2 Chicago – Drownings On The Rise In Lake Michigan
07/29/2019 – NBC 5 Chicago – Local Experts Hope Water Safety Workshop Avoids More Lake Deaths
07/28/2019 – ABC 7 Chicago – Lake Michigan drownings up 80 percent this year, water safety group says
07/29/2019 – WWJ Newsradio 950 – Swim Warning Issued In Lake Michigan After 80 Percent Spike In Drownings – Every weekend brings more cases
07/29/2019 – The Detroit News – Great Lakes drownings on record pace again
07/29/2019 – ABC 13 on your side – Certified lifeguard says swimmers should pay attention to flags, conditions at Lake Mich. Beaches – There have been 27 drownings in Lake Michigan in 2019.
07/29/2019 – MIX 95.7 – Dangerous conditions on Lake Michigan expected again Monday
07/29/2019 – WTOL 11 Toledo – Experts offer drowning prevention strategies after 12 people drown in Lake Erie – In all of the Great Lakes, 50 people have drowned in 2019.
07/29/2019 – WBBM News Radio 780 – Drownings In Lake Michigan Up 80 Percent Over Last Year: Report
07/29/2019 – 9 & 10 News – Swimmers at Risk on Lake Michigan: Winds Cause High Waves, Currents
07/29/2019 – Chicago Tribune – Lake Michigan Drownings up 80% over this time last year
07/29/2019 – Chicago Sun-Times – Drownings in Lake Michigan up 80% over last year: report
Drownings in Lake Michigan account for over half of the total drownings in all five great lakes
07/29/2019 – NBC 24 – Drowning victim identified, officials urge water safety
07/29/2019 – Detroit News – Warning issued for dangerous swimming conditions on Lake Michigan beaches
07/29/2019 – CBS 3 WWMT – South Haven beachgoers swim despite red flag warning of dangerous conditions
07/28/2019 – UpNorthLive – GLSRP: Lake Michigan drownings up 80 percent over last year
07/28/2019 – Detroit News – Lake Michigan drownings up 80% since last year 51 Great Lakes drownings in 2019; 27 in Lake Michigan
07/28/2019 – Huron Daily Tribune – Warnings posted for Monday on Michigan side of Lake Michigan
07/28/2019 – Detroit Free Press – Dangerous conditions expected at Lake Michigan beaches Monday
07/27/2019 – Holland Sentinel – Group: Lake Michigan worst Great Lake for drownings – LUDINGTON — West Michigan is home to the deadliest Great Lake when it comes to drownings, according to new numbers from the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.
GLSRP says half of the 44 Great Lakes drownings that have happened so far this year took place in Lake Michigan. Additionally, one person pulled from Lake Michigan was last listed in critical condition, and two scuba divers from Illinois who died in the big lake.
Great Lakes drownings in 2019 (As of July 24, 2019):
Lake Michigan: 22 drownings
Lake Erie: 10 drownings
Lake Ontario: 6 drownings
Lake Huron: 5 drownings
Lake Superior: 2 drownings
GLSRP says since 2010, 784 people have lost their lives in Lakes Michigan, Superior, Huron, Erie and Ontario. Great Lakes drownings spiked at 117 last year, with the water claiming 29 more lives than the year prior.
The most recent Lake Michigan drowning involved 18-year-old Daniel McCarthy of Baldwin, who got caught in a current along with eight other swimmers, but never made it to shore. Crews recovered his body around 9:45 p.m. Tuesday at Ludington State Park. Read the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project’s full drowning summary at www.glsrp.org/statistics.
07/27/2019 – Holland Sentinel – Man drowns in Lake Michigan near Holland
07/27/2019 – Northwest Indiana Times – 35-year-old Michigan man dies after slipping under water at Indiana Dunes State Park
07/27/2019 – The Sandusky Register – How can Nickel Plate be safer?
Benjamin said a lifeguard would have an immediate impact. That’s because a lifeguard could educate people on where currents are located and help prevent swimmers from getting carried out into the lake.
But White is resistant to that idea. He pointed out at Tuesday’s city council meeting they had trained rescue professionals in the water trying to find Young, but it was so bad that some of them got into trouble.
“So I worry about the additional risk posed to lifeguards who would come to the beach,” White said. “But with that being said, it’s something to be considered.”
At Tuesday’s meeting, several people gave suggestions of limiting the area where swimming is allowed to a shallower depth.
“We’ve talked about defining a swim area that would be no farther than 4-feet deep and move it away from the pier,” White said. “The tremendous force and energy that’s created reverberate some length down the beach and there are going to be conditions where I don’t think it’s going to be safe even with those safety features in place.”
It’s for this reason that after Martin’s death, the city checked the beach’s condition each morning to see if it was safe to open. But White wants to be able to close it at any time.
“What’s most import is the detection of the turning of events,” White said. “I think council through its vested power in my office should be able to close the beach Monday morning, Friday afternoon, Sunday, it doesn’t matter.”
The city doesn’t have a policy in place for closing the beach on the weekend when the staff is off, and White said that’s the situation they got into on Sunday with Young.
His office is researching a warning system that records wind and wave activity and could set off an alarm or strobe light when it’s too dangerous to be in the water.
White said the city is also in the process of relocating the rescue box closer to the water and including life jacket in it as well as the life ring. The city is also looking into a program to provide the police department with a personal watercraft to store at the beach.
Another option Benjamin suggested, updating the signage to be specific to the dangers at the beach, is already underway. White said the city has placed an order to erect six signs along the beach with information on rip currents and what to do in an emergency situation.
What to do if you’re stuck in a current?
The project advocates for people to use the “Flip, Float and Follow” method, which tells the person who is struggling to flip over, float on their back and to not fight against the current.
The toughest thing to do if you’re caught in a rip current is to swim directly to shore,” Oudeman said.
Once a person figures out which way the current is moving they should swim perpendicular to the current until they’re out of it. Benjamin said education inside schools is the best and most cost efficient way to try to prevent the number of drownings.
“Public education is the missing piece of the puzzle for water safety,” Benjamin said. “Schools have fire drills, active shooter drills and tornado drills, but drowning kills more children every year than fires, guns and tornados.”
Benjamin wants the “Flip, Float and Follow” slogan to become as well known to people as the “Stop, Drop and Roll” motto taught to children during fire safety.
The U.S. Coast Guard and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources both recommend people wear life jackets when going into the lake.
07/27/2019 – UpNorthLive – GLSRP: Beware of offshore winds on Great Lakes
MICHIGAN (WPBN/WGTU) — The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Projects debuted its latest water safety illustration to address the dangers of offshore winds and side-offshore winds.
“Inflatable toys like rafts, ducks, unicorns, swans and other objects can get blown fast and far offshore when the wind is blowing from the land and out to open water,” GLSRP Executive Director Dave Benjamin said. “We hope that this new illustration can educate the public as fast as these toys can float out.”
During offshore winds, the water at the shoreline can be deceptively calm, but the farther one gets from shore, the winds become stronger and the water can become choppy.
According to the GLSRP, on Sunday, July 14, 2019 a 33-year-old mother drowned in Lake Ontario trying to rescue her six-year-old son who got carried away from shore while floating on an inflatable unicorn.
On Monday, July 15, 2019 a toddler was on an inflatable duck in Michigan City, Indiana that was blown out to open water by a side-offshore wind.
“Southernly winds will be blowing today. It can cause offshore wind conditions for Indiana and side-offshore winds for northern Illinois, southeast Wisconsin, and southwest Michigan,” Benjamin said. “As the winds travel farther north, the winds may also create waves and dangerous currents such as longshore currents, rip currents, and structural currents. The south sides (windward sides) of all piers will be the most turbulent and the dangerous spots on Lake Michigan.”
The GLSRP is tracking 49 Great Lakes drownings in 2019, 25 of which occurred in Lake Michigan. The GLSRP recorded 117 in 2018
07/26/2019 – Cleveland 19 – Officials warning swimmers of dangers in Lake Erie; 2019 could set record for drownings
07/26/2019 – WZZM ABC 13 – NWS warns beachgoers of dangerous swimming conditions Saturday – “We strongly advise NOT going into the water.”
07/26/2019 – Detroit News – Beware boaters and swimmers: High winds on Great Lakes this weekend – Dave Benjamin, executive director of public relations and project management for the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, said looking at the warm weekend, southerly winds can cause offshore wind conditions for southeast Michigan. “As the winds travel farther north, the winds will also create waves and dangerous currents such as long-shore currents, rip currents and structural currents,” Benjamin said. “The south sides (windward sides) of all piers will be the most turbulent and dangerous spots on Lake Michigan.”
07/26/2019 – Fox 17 – Lake Michigan drownings up 58% over last year – As officials continue to search for a missing father who drowned at Ludington State Park, a group is urging safety on the water this weekend. Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project says Lake Michigan drownings are up 58% over this date in 2018 and the numbers are likely to continue to rise. In 2019 the GLSRP is tracking 44 Great Lakes drownings; 22 of those in Lake Michigan.
“The ‘4 W’s – warm, wind, waves and weekend- may come into play this weekend bringing more people to the beach. Winds are the primary source of the dangerous currents on the Great Lakes,” said Dave Benjamin, GLSRP Executive Director. “Southernly winds blowing this weekend can cause offshore wind conditions for Indiana, side-offshore winds for northern Illinois, southwest Wisconsin, and southeast Michigan. “As the winds travel farther north, the winds will also create waves and dangerous currents such as longshore currents, rip currents, and structural currents. The south sides (windward sides) of all piers will be the most turbulent and dangerous spots on Lake Michigan.”
07/26/2019 – Detroit Free Press – Drowning deaths on Lake Michigan have skyrocketed this year
07/26/2019 – Michigan Radion NPR – Reports of drowning in Lake Michigan are higher this year than last, group says
07/25/2019 – CBS 2 Chicago – Man Dies After Being Pulled From Water At Rainbow Beach
07/25/2019 – CBS 2 Chicago – Lake Michigan Drownings Up 57 Percent This Year, Water Safety Group Says
07/25/2019 – Northwest Indiana Times – EDITORIAL: Keep your wits when venturing into the lake
07/25/2019 – WILX NBC 10 – Lake Michigan more dangerous for swimmers
07/25/2019 – WBCK FM – Almost 800 People have Drowned in the Great Lakes Since 2010
07/25/2019 – WLNS – 44 Great Lakes drownings reported in 2019
07/24/2019 – WXYZ Detroit – 44 people have drowned in the Great Lakes in 2019
07/24/2019 – WOOD TV – Group: Lake Michigan worst Great Lake for drownings SOUTHWEST MICHIGAN
07/24/2019 – NBC WKYC 3 CLEVELAND – Near-drowning survivor issues Great Lakes safety warning – Be safe versus sorry while enjoying the water. “You never play in fire but you know a fire survival strategy, you always play in water every summer, every vacation, every pool that you go to you play in water but very few people know a drowning survival strategy.”
07/22/2019 – The Neighbor – UPDATE: Five fatal drownings at Lake Michigan beaches in the Region this year, officials say
07/23/2019 – News Dispatch – Man pulled from lake dies in ICU – MC man is second fatality in two weeks off Washington Park
07/23/2019 – Star Beacon – Woman pushes for water safety education
07/22/2019 – FOX 6 – Breakwater safety hazards up with high Great Lakes water levels
07/22/2019 – WSBT – 21 people drowned in Lake Michigan this year. Here’s what to know before going for a swim
07/22/2019 – WNDU – Warnings of Lake Michigan dangers come after swimming deaths
07/22/2019 – ABC 57 – Mother creates petition to bring lifeguards back to South Haven
07/22/2019 – CBS 2 Chicago – Lake Michigan Drownings Continue Despite Warnings
07/22/2019 – CBS 2 Chicago – Chicago Weather: Beach Hazard Statement, Small Craft Advisory For Lake Michigan
07/22/2019 – Northwest Indiana Times – UPDATE: Five fatal drownings at Lake Michigan beaches in the Region this year, officials say
07/22/2019 – ABC 57 – An area lifeguard takes to Facebook to strongly warn of dangerous swimming
07/21/2019 – WGN Chicago – Officials remind public about water safety after man drowns in Lake Michigan
07/21/2019 – NBC 5 Chicago – After Recent Tragedies, CFD Officials Offer Water Safety Tips
07/18/2019 – MLIVE – Toddler floats away on inflatable duck on Lake Michigan, bystanders rescue child
07/18/2019 – Detroit Free Press – Bystander saves toddler who floats away on inflatable duck in Lake Michigan
07/18/2019 – Daily Mail UK – Toddler is rescued by a boater on Lake Michigan after strong winds push his yellow inflatable duck away from shore
07/18/2019 – Inside Edition – Toddler Sobs as He Drifts Out on Lake Michigan on Giant Duck Float
07/17/2019 – The Weather Channel – Beachgoers Rescue Kid Who Floated Away – winds blew inflatable duck away from shore toward open water.
07/17/2019 – Holland Sentinel – Red flags: [Not So] Well-known warning system at state park not always heeded
07/17/2019 – Good Morning America – Boater helps rescue toddler stranded on inflatable duck
07/17/2019 – ABC 7 Chicago – Kids learn water safety in junior lifeguard program in Wilmette
07/17/2019 – South Bend Tribune – Toddler saved in Lake Michigan by nearby boater after winds carry inflatable
07/17/2019 – WWMT – PETITION: BRING BACK LIFEGUARDS – SOUTH HAVEN, MI — The drowning of a 13-year-old in South Haven sparks public cry for the return of lifeguards on South Haven beaches. As of late Wednesday, 5,400 [8,500+] people had signed the petition.
One former lifeguard said with so many deaths the lack of a lifeguard on the beach is dangerous. “For someone that’s just like a citizen walking around they don’t really have the skills in that and the strength a lot of times to be in the water and saving lives, so it’s important to have trained lifeguards.” Bridget Reebe said.
Earlier this week Newschannel 3 spoke with South Haven City Manager Brain Dissette. We asked if lifeguards would ever come back to South Haven?
He said it was a question for the City Council. So, we went to city hall to speak with city council. We were told NO MEMBER OF THE CITY COUNCIL WAS AVAILABLE.
07/17/2019 – North Cook News – GLENCOE PARK DISTRICT: Glencoe Park District launched Beach S.A.F.E.
07/17/2019 – WNEM 5 – Boater rescues toddler on giant inflatable duck on Lake Michigan
07/17/2019 – Mirror, UK – Screams and panic after toddler on inflatable duck floats out to sea from beach
07/16/2019 – Herald Argus – Tragedy avoided at MC beach, Boaters rescue child after inflatable toy drifts to open water
07/16/2019 – CBS 2 Chicago – Toddler Rescued From Lake Michigan After Drifting Away On Inflatable Duck In Michigan City
07/16/2019 – CBS 2 Chicago – Video Captures Dramatic Rescue As Toddler Floated Away From Shore In Inflatable Duck In Michigan City
07/16/2019 – NBC 5 Chicago – Close Call Caught on Cam on Lake Michigan After Toddler on Inflatable Duck Carried Away by Wind – What began as a peaceful day at the lake in Michigan City, Indiana, quickly turned to panic Monday afternoon
07/16/2019 – ABC 7 Chicago – Boater rescues toddler who floated away from shore in inflatable duck in Lake Michigan
07/16/2019 – WNDU NBC 16 – Toddler saved in Lake Michigan after winds carry inflatable
07/16/2019 – WTTV CBS Indy 4 – Indiana toddler saved in Lake Michigan after winds carry inflatable
07/16/2019 – WPVI ABC 6 – Boy rescued from inflatable duck after drifting offshore in Indiana
07/16/2019 – FOX 59 – Boater saves Indiana toddler in Lake Michigan after he drifted away on inflatable duck
07/16/2019 – The News Dispatch – Tragedy avoided at MC beach – Boaters rescue child after inflatable toy drifts to open water
07/16/2019 – New York Daily News – Tot on inflatable duck reportedly carried away into Lake Michigan, saved by boat
07/16/2019 – US News – Toddler Saved in Lake Michigan After Winds Carry Inflatable — Witnesses say a toddler was rescued in Lake Michigan after he drifted away from his family on an inflatable duck in Indiana.
07/16/2019 – Toronto Sun – 773 drownings in Great Lakes since 2010: Safety group
07/16/2019 – Windsor Star – Great Lakes drownings high in number, but often preventable, safety group says
07/16/2019 – Northwest Indiana Times – UPDATE: Toddler saved in Lake Michigan by nearby boater after winds carry inflatable, witness says
07/16/2019 – ABC 57 – Toddler rescued by bystanders in Michigan City
07/15/2019 – ABC 57 – Recent Lake Michigan drownings bring safety into question
07/15/2019 – WZZM 13 – Water safety advocates continue push to bring back lifeguards on Michigan beaches – The drowning of a boy in South Haven has ignited the debate again if Michigan beaches need lifeguards.
07/12/2019 – The News Dispatch – Busy weekend for Beach Rescue Unit – Tragic drowning one of several calls about Lake Michigan
07/10/2019 – WSBT 22 – Crews back on Lake Michigan to find missing teen, what they now call a recovery operation
07/09/2019 – WSBT 22 – Officials give water safety tips after a dangerous weekend on Lake Michigan
07/09/2019 – WSBT 22 Facebook Live – Michigan City, IN – Water Safety tips
07/09/2019 – The Herald Argus – Search continues for missing swimmer – South Bend teen went under Saturday evening off Washington Park
07/07/2019 – Herald Argus – SB teen missing in Lake Michigan
07/07/2019 – ABC 7 Newsviews: Water Safety – The weather has finally warmed up and maybe you’ve spent time at the beach this weekend. WATCH: Newsviews Part 1 & 2.
07/06/2019 – ABC 7 – Swimmer missing near Michigan City as weather service warns of life-threatening waves
07/04/2019 – Cleveland 19 – Lake Erie second deadliest Great Lake for drownings; total deaths down from last year
07/04/2019 – UpNorthLive – GLSRP: 22 drownings in Great Lakes so far in 2019 – GREAT LAKES (WPBN/WGTU) — The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project (GLSRP) has released their statistics for the number of drownings in the Great Lakes for 2019. According to the GLSRP, there have been 22 Great Lakes drownings so far for 2019. Since 2010, the GLSRP said there have been 762 drownings in the Great Lakes.
07/03/2019 – WILX – 22 Great Lakes drownings in 2019
06/05/2019– Lakeshore Public Radio – All Things Considered – Regionally Speaking. We bring back our summer 2017 conversation about Lake Michigan drownings with Dave Benjamin with the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.” (The Interview begins at 27:38)
06/05/2019– Southbend Tribune – After loss of Lake Michigan kayaker: ‘Look out for our brothers and sisters’
06/04/2019– Southtown Star – Just because you know how to swim, doesn’t mean you know how to survive — As pool and beach season gets underway safety experts remind water lovers not to have a false sense of security because a lifeguard is on duty or because they know how to swim.
The World Congress on Drowning states that an estimated 66% of the more than 360000 people who drown worldwide each year knew how to swim, said Dave Benjamin, executive director of the nonprofit Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project (www.glsrp.org).
That explains why people take risks, such as swimming alone or beyond their physical capability, and why so often would-be rescuers become drowning victims, he said.
As beaches and pools open for the season, he reminds patrons that in June beach water is cold and visitors likely haven’t been swimming for months.
“Their swimming endurance may be down,” even if their confidence is not, he said.
Know a survival strategy
Being able to swim is not the same as being able to survive a drowning event, he said.
Benjamin has given classroom presentations in Oak Lawn, Palos Heights and Blue Island this past spring. He said he always begins with an informal survey that typically reveals about 90% of the students say they know how to swim. But, he added, less than 5% know a drowning survival strategy such as “Flip, Float and Follow” when caught in a current or floating on your back and breathing deeply for added buoyancy.
“Knowing how to swim reduces your fear of water. But people often overestimate their swimming ability,” Benjamin said. “Males overestimate it by about 50 percent.”
Benjamin said a Red Cross report showed 54 percent of Americans who say they can swim don’t have basic swimming ability to survive a water emergency. The criteria for survival included five points: 1) resurfacing after falling into water over your head, 2) treading water for one minute, 3) spinning 360 degrees to spot an exit, 4) swimming 25 yards or length of the pool to get to that exit, and 5) climbing out of water without assistance.
“We want people to know how to swim but we want them also to understand their true swimming ability and that there’s a distinction between knowing how to swim and knowing how to survive,” he said.Most people can run but that doesn’t mean they have the ability to run a marathon, he added.
Drowning is one of the leading causes of accidental death, particularly for children and particularly for males, in the nation and the world, he said. Eighty percent of drowning victims are male, he said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in five people who die from drowning in the United States are children age 14 and younger. In addition, the CDC states, for every child who dies from drowning, another five receive emergency department care for nonfatal submersion injuries.
These are things every parent should know and are reasons to “watch your kids like a hawk,” Benjamin said.
There were 117 Great Lakes drownings in 2018, he said, making it the deadliest year since the GLSRP began tracking such deaths in 2010.
Already, 2019 has claimed 16 Great Lakes drowning victims, with the latest victim being pulled out of Lake Michigan at the end of May.
Benjamin said because the physical struggle often takes place under water, as the victim’s legs and arms “climb a ladder” or “paw at the water,” onlookers are often unaware the individual is in trouble.
For the victim, Benjamin said, panic is the first stage of drowning.
“It’s a panic attack in the water. If you don’t understand that you’re likely to exhaust all your energy and submerge,” he said. “That’s why you need a survival strategy.
“If you want to survive a drowning incident, you have to stay at the surface and continue breathing, by treading water and floating or having a flotation device with you,” he said.
06/04/2019 – Interlochen Public Radio – Record number of drowning deaths in Great Lakes last year
06/04/2019– Post-Tribune – Drowning doesn’t look like drowning, says water safety advocatenlike the way it’s portrayed in movies, drowning is often quiet. There’s usually no screaming or thrashing in the water. It’s something that can go unnoticed, unless it’s being watched. Most importantly, it can happen to anyone — more than 50 percent of drowning victims are strong swimmers, according to the United States Coast Guard. Last year, the number of deaths due to drowning in the Great Lakes was 118, making it the deadliest year since the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project began tracking drownings in the Great Lakes in 2010. Since they began, they’ve tracked more than 750 deaths.
06/03/2019– Fox 6 – ‘It’s about time:’ Life rings installed at North, South Pier in Kenosha after 4 drownings in 2018 — KENOSHA — Life rings were installed at Kenosha’s North Pier and South Pier after four drownings in 2018, including a case involving a 17-year-old Indian Trail High School student. It was a simple solution that became very complex.
“It’s about time,” said Maria Rasch of Kenosha. “Ever since I moved here, we had always heard of different drownings, and it wasn’t until this past season somebody decided to actually do something about it.”
Three life rings were installed at the North Pier Monday, joining one life ring on the South Pier and another on the Pike River after a tragic year.
Donovan Anderson’s body was recovered from Lake Michigan near Carthage College on Sept. 12, 2018. He was part of a group of students taking pictures and playing in the water on Sept. 6. Officials said he jumped into the lake off the pier and didn’t resurface. It was one of four drownings in 2018, putting officials under pressure to do something.
06/03/2019– TMJ4 – Life rings finally up on Kenosha’s north pier 6 years after Lake Mills’ mom lost her son
05/31/2019– Northwest Indiana Times – Lake Michigan claims 7 lives already this year; good swimmers not immune, expert says
05/30/2019– WTTW Chicago Chanel 11 – “Beach Season is Here, and Water Safety Advocates Say They’re Worried”
05/30/2019– WKZO – A deadly year so far in the Great Lakes
05/30/2019– WWMT – Data shows deadly year so far on Great Lakes — 751 Great Lakes Drownings since 2010; 11 to date in 2019 — GREAT LAKES, USA – The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project (GLSRP) announces its current drowning statistics. In 2019, the GLSRP is tracking 11 Great Lakes drownings. Overall since 2010, the GLSRP has tracked 751 Great Lakes drownings. Full statistics here. Note: * = (+/-) Awaiting 100% confirmation of drowning.
05/28/2019– Fox News Chicago – ‘Flip, Float and Follow’: What to do if you may be about to drown
05/25/2019– Lake County News Sun – Moran: Beach season opens with a reminder that Lake Michigan is not a kiddie pool
05/24/2019– Fox 17 – Grand Haven launches new beach safety initiatives – GRAND HAVEN, Mich. — In the summer of 2018 more than 100 people drowned in the Great Lakes, three of those individuals in the waters of Lake Michigan by the Grand Haven lakeshore.
Now, community officials are banding together, announcing new safety tools at Friday’s “Beach Safety Initiative” on the Grand Haven Beach.
The first of the Beach Safety Initiatives is 14 red zonal signs meant to help rescue crews find exactly where an emergency is happening.
Also included in the initiatives is a new flag pole to display warning flags, extra rigging rope and life rings to throw to those in distress, water rescue goggles for emergency personnel, and a safety message that will be playing on loop on AM 1700.
05/24/2019– The News Dispatch – Lake safety part of curriculum — Lake Michigan can be dangerous — After the deadliest year on the Great Lakes in 2018, the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project is reminding swimmers and beach-goers to be safe when in or near the water.
Last year was the deadliest on the Great Lakes since the GLSRP began tracking drownings in 2010. And so far in 2019, the project is tracking seven drownings, and possibly an additional four, which happened in the last week. Overall since 2010, there have been at least 747 Great Lakes drownings. Of the 2018 drownings, 117 were in Lake Michigan, including six in Northwest Indiana and two in Michigan City.
One of the possible drownings being tracked this week is a South Bend man who is still missing after he disappeared off Porter Beach last weekend. A search is underway for Jacob Sandy, 23, last seen heading onto Lake Michigan to kayak. Porter Police found Sandy’s car in the parking lot near the beach, and a search has been underway since Monday.
The GLSRP offers the following reminders for those heading to the water over the holiday weekend:
- Water temperatures are in the 50s at the south end of Lake Michigan, and swimmers are advised not to jump off boats or piers. If you enter the water, ease your way in and wear a lifejacket. Cold water shock can cause an involuntary hyperventilation gasp reflex, so know the rules of hypothermia.
- This summer the beaches may seem more crowded because the water lines are higher and there’s literally less beach space. In addition, check local sandbar formations. There may be sudden drop-offs, inshore holes, or debris/trees submerged along some shorelines.
- Wear a lifejacket – especially while traveling on boats. “You wouldn’t try to put your seatbelt on during a car crash. If an incident happens while boating, you likely won’t be able to put on your lifejacket in a life and death situation,” Bob Pratt, GLSRP executive director, said.
- It’s likely been several months since most people have been to the beach, so swimming endurance may be low and cold water will incapacitate swimming ability.
05/24/2019– Star Beacon – Take care when boating – Many people will be getting their boats out on the water for the first time this weekend. While the water provides plenty of great opportunities for fun, it is important to take precautions and be safe because summer fun can turn to tragedy quickly.
According to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, since 2010 there have been more than 750 Great Lakes drownings.
“I cannot stress enough that drowning really is a public health issue that needs to be treated like a public health issue,” Dave Benjamin, Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project executive director, said last fall. “A water safety school curriculum needs to be mandated and funded in the Great Lakes region as well as nationwide. Great Lakes drownings are just the tip of the iceberg of the nationwide drowning crisis.”
05/23/2019– Chicago Tribune – Going to the beach can be dangerous. Here are ways to stay safe.
Even when it comes to a fun, enjoyable activity like a day at the beach, beachgoers still should understand the risks before going in the water.
Last year, at least 42 people drowned in Lake Michigan, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, a group that tracks drownings across the Great Lakes. The Chicago area has already had five people drown in Lake Michigan this year.
The Chicago Park District assigns each beach a color-coded flag. A green flag means there are no swim restrictions, and the water quality is good. A yellow flag means be cautious because weather conditions are unpredictable or bacteria levels in the water are above the threshold deemed safe by the Environmental Protection Agency. A red flag means swimming is prohibited due to the weather, water quality or surf conditions of the beach — or that the beach is closed to swimming because there are no lifeguards.
“If there’s a red flag out there don’t go in the water,” said Adam Bueling, assistant manager of beaches and pools for the Chicago Park District. “That means there may be bacterial contamination. It may mean there’s high wind or high waves or there’s no lifeguard on duty.”
Be cautious of waves and currents
Lake Michigan is vulnerable to dangerous waves and currents, Rodriguez said. When winds blow directly onshore, that creates strong waves and increases the possibility of dangerous currents, including currents that flow away from the beach and back out to the lake, Rodriguez said.
“If someone gets caught in that it becomes a very dangerous situation,” he said.
The National Weather Service advises all beachgoers to steer clear of piers and pier-like structures because waves are often more chaotic near them.
“Our beaches get structural currents around jetties and piers, and when you’re close to those structures you can get caught in a current, which can carry you out to deeper water,” Bueling said.
Waves and currents can be unpredictable and that’s why the weather service encourages people to wear a life jacket.
Lifeguards can be a lifesaver
Chicago’s beaches are staffed with lifeguards only between the hours of 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
“Obey the rules,” Bueling said. “Don’t swim where and when there are no lifeguards.”
The drowning of a 13-year-old girl last summer 30 minutes after lifeguards had ended their shift at Loyola Beach prompted the Park District to plant a red flag at all beach locations when lifeguards were not on duty.
There are roughly 1,050 lifeguards employed by the Park District, which includes 500 spread across the lakefront and 550 at pools throughout the city, a spokeswoman said. However, the Park District is still looking to hire more lifeguards.
Lifeguard hours were cut from 9 a.m to 8:30 p.m. to 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. in 2009 in an effort to save about $700,000 a year.
A task force put together after the girl’s drowning recommended this spring that the Park District extend lifeguard hours, but noted that the district and Chicago Public Schools also are working to expand lifeguard training, because not enough lifeguards are available.
05/22/2019– Herald Palladium – Water safety training on North Pier — ST. JOSEPH — The St. Joseph Department of Public Safety and the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department will host a joint water safety event on the North Pier at Tiscornia Beach at noon Sunday. The presentation will cover water safety, pier safety, rip currents and life rings. Nearly 750 people have drowned in the Great Lakes since tracking began in 2010.
- 05/20/2019– ABC 57- Beaches get smaller as Lake Michigan water levels continue to rise — The high levels are also impacting Lake Michigan beach lines.
The co-founder of Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, a nonprofit that works to cut the number of Great Lakes drownings through training and education, Dave Benjamin is asking beach goers to take certain precautions due to the higher water levels.
Benjamin says that the high water levels are shrinking Lake Michigan beaches. Putting it simply, he says more water means more hazards for people out on the beach.
“Water is one of the leading causes of accidental death. If we’re looking at the beach here in Michigan City, Indiana, there’s a lot less beach here than there was last year. And, we have a lot of people that come to this beach every summer, which means this beach is going to be even more crowded, and in a smaller space,” Benjamin said.
He explains that although the higher water levels don’t change the way lifeguards are trained, crowded beaches due to the changing beach lines make it harder for lifeguards to monitor the open water.
Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk is just one example of the devastating impact higher water levels have had on shorelines across the area. Right now, the beach is temporarily closed due to hazardous conditions from erosion.
Benjamin asks that swimmers are careful on the sandbars because the arrangement of their formations can change due to the high water levels.
Plus, if you take the boat out, be on the lookout hazards like vegetation or trees that could’ve been washed off the shore line that are now submerged close to the water due to high water levels and wave activity.
He also says to take water safety into consideration is along the piers of Lake Michigan.
“Because the water level is higher along the piers, a smaller wave, 2 feet 3 feet might be enough to wash someone off the pier. So, we always tell people to steer clear from the pier. It’s one of the mantras across the great lakes. Whenever there’s water washing over the piers you should definitely stay off them, do not swim near them,” Benjamin said.
Benjamin tells ABC57 that last year was the deadliest year on the Great Lakes with 40 drownings in Lake Michigan.
- 05/12/2019– Kenosha News – After a deadly 2018 season, water safety program aims to save lives on the lakefront
A push for safety – Saturday was the culmination of a week of water safety events organized by the Safety Around Water (SAW) coalition in partnership with the city, Kenosha Unified School District and the local police and fire departments.
The week included presentations about water safety by David Benjamin from the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project at Unified high schools and middle schools. A water safety video created by Cochran was also shown at all district middle and high schools.
On Saturday, the coalition held a water safety event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Kenosha Harbor, including safety demonstrations, a presentation by the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project and life jacket giveaways.
The week of education programs was part of a larger series of initiatives to improve safety at the lakefront, including larger warning signs, “throw bags” for police squad cars and the installation of life ring kiosks at areas where there are dangerous currents, including near the mouth of the Pike River and at the North Pier.
Deadly summer – Ironically, as the coalition began meeting [in July of 2018] in the hope of pushing for improved safety, Kenosha entered what became a deadly summer on the water.
Five people died in drownings in the county in 2018, including an 18-year-old high school student who died after jumping from North Pier with friends and a father who drowned trying to save his daughter from a rip current off the beach where the Pike River flows into Lake Michigan.
- 05/02/2019– Kenosha News – Moving past ‘I don’t know’ is key to water safety – I didn’t know that I could drown because I know how to swim.
I didn’t know that panic is the first stage of drowning.
I didn’t know about dangerous currents in the Great Lakes.
I didn’t know that 80 percent of all drowning victims are male.
I didn’t know, yet there I was … I was male. I was in a structural current. I was panicking. I could no longer swim. I was drowning.
Luckily I survived. I survived by floating. When I had given up my exhausted struggle to stay at the surface in the pounding waves, I luckily had enough float in my surfing wetsuit to stay at the surface and breathe — I could float, breathe, overcome the panic and eventually float back to shore.
After that nonfatal drowning event I co-founded the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.
And I didn’t know that “I didn’t know …” would become the number one thing that we would hear from family and friends of drowning victims after a tragic event.
And when we listened to these “I didn’t know …” factors from these families and friends of drowning victims, we realized that these factors were not complex ideas. These factors were actually quite simple.
Many people may think that these factors are common sense, but there is currently no common sense when it comes to water safety.
Our society is so far behind the eight ball when it comes to water safety when compared to other public safety programs.
Answer these questions:
What do you do if your clothes catch on fire?
Yes. That’s right… Stop, Drop, and Roll.
What do you do if you are drowning?
Less than 5 percent of people we surveyed know a drowning survival strategy like “Float” or “Flip, Float, and Follow”.
Consider how often do you play in fire? Never.
And now consider how often you play in water. All the time.
So you never play in fire, but you know a fire survival strategy. Yet you always play in water, but you don’t know a water survival strategy.
Let that sink in and now truly understand that water safety is not common sense. We need a water safety school curriculum to save future generations from drowning.
Dave Benjamin is executive director of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.
- 04/29/2019– Sheboygan Press – Scientists: 15-minute storm caused Lake Michigan rip currents that killed 7 hours later — The research team looked at eyewitness incident reports that show rip currents have led to 94 fatalities at Lake Michigan beaches over the last 15 years, and compared them with meteotsunami events in Lake Michigan.
The comparison showed “16% of fatal current incidents and 12% of reported rescues occurred on the same day that meteotsunamis were observed in the lake,” according to the paper the team published.
This could suggest meteotsunami-induced rips may be frequently related to water safety incidents, the paper said.
According to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, 117 drownings occurred on the Great Lakes in 2018.
- 04/25/2019– Chicago Tribune – Lake Michigan’s deadly ‘freak wave’ of 1954 is Chicago folklore. Turns out it was a meteotsunami. [Since 1929 there have been 24 deaths attributed to meteotsunamis, yet since 2010 there have been over 745 drownings in the Great Lakes.]
The Great Lakes saw 118 drownings in 2018, by far the most since the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project began keeping track in 2010. Director Dave Benjamin acknowledges the threat posed by meteotsunamis, but he said only one-third of the drownings in the region are caused by dangerous waves or currents. To him, it speaks to a larger need for overall water safety education.
Meteotsunamis are “sort of the sharks of the Great Lakes,” Benjamin said. “It gets national news, but there are only a small percentage of people affected.” “States spend millions on top of millions of dollars in tourism campaigns to bring people to Great Lakes states — for revenue and taxes — but almost nothing is spent on water safety.”
04/24/2019– 9 & 10 News – Spring Kayak Safety: Over 100 Drowning Related Deaths in 2018
04/23/2019– TMJ4 – Leaders with the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project report there were 42 drownings in Lake Michigan last year alone. Leaders are trying to teach people water safety. During the entire week of spring break, Kenosha’s YMCA is offering free swim safety lessons.
The message is to Flip, Float and Follow in a water emergency.
If you’re stuck in a rip current, first flip on your back. Float to conserve your energy. Then, follow a safe path out of the water.
04/04/2019– Kenosha News – Safety Around Water coalition plans May event
02/02/2019– WSBT 22 – SPECIAL REPORT: WSBT meteorologist discusses what to do if you find yourself on thin ice – “If you are to fall in the water, you have one minute to control your breathing, ten minutes of meaningful movement, and less than one hour until hypothermia sets in,” said Dave Benjamin, Director of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.
01/07/2019– WLUC TV 6 – The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, Inc. is reporting 2018 as the deadliest year for drownings in the Great Lakes since 2010 and they say almost all drownings are preventable.
The project reports 117 lives were lost on the Great Lakes because of drowning and they say, that number should be zero.
“We believe that every drowning is preventable and we’ve got to start asking ourselves as a society, ‘Why are we not preventing them?’” prompted Dave Benjamin, Co-founder and Executive Director of the Great Lakes Surf Project.
The organization says it may not be as easy to identify a drowning victim as you may think.
“Drowning is swift, it doesn’t look the way Hollywood portrays it,” said Benjamin. “When you’re panicking, it’s an emotional and an irrational response to the situation. We start making a lot of mistakes and that’s why we start to hyperventilate.”
A person who is drowning will usually be facing shore, their mouth will be at water level and may have their head tipped back. They’ll be vertical, so it may almost look like they’re treading water.
“You have to, instead of fight to survive, you have to roll over and get your breathing under control,” said Benjamin.
If you find yourself in a panicked drowning situation, flip yourself on to your back, float to get yourself and your breathing under control, and then follow a safe path out of the water.
As the drowning deaths increased on the Great Lakes, the city of Marquette reports zero drowning deaths in 2018.
“We’ve worked very closely with Northern Michigan University in order to make sure the information gets out to people, especially those new to the area, about the dangers of the lake, the dangers of certain areas within the city limits where people swim,” said Marquette City Manager Mike Angeli.
The city employs 30 lifeguards in the summertime, and the Police Department has a designated park patrol to help keep an eye on the water.
“We’ve made a pretty good effort to try and deal with it,” Angeli added.
There’s more information on Great Lakes drowning statistics and how to keep yourself on the water, www.glsrp.org.
12/05/2018 – Sun Prairie Star – “Before I researched drowning, diving and spinal cord injuries for the book, I was very naïve about potential dangers relating to these water sports,” she said. This year, more than 100 people have drowned in the Great Lakes making it the deadliest year in a decade. That’s according to a tally by the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, a nonprofit water safety group that keeps a comprehensive database of Great Lakes drownings.
11/18/2018 – Parents Preventing Childhood Drowning – Sunday Survival Story: Swim Near a Lifeguard!
11/09/2018 – US News & World Report – Safety Group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes
11/09/2018 – Great Lakes Commission – Daily News – Safety group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes
11/08/2018 – Wood TV 8 – Safety group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes
11/09/2018 – Holland Sentinel, Holland, MI – 2018 deadliest year for Great Lakes drownings
11/09/2018 – Fox 17, Holland, MI – Safety group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes
11/09/2018 – Herald Courier, Holland, MI – 2018 deadliest year for Great Lakes drownings
11/09/2018 – Herald Palladium, St. Joseph, MI – Safety group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes
11/09/2018 – Detroit Free Press – Safety group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes
11/09/2018 – 9 & 10 News, Cadillac, MI– Safety group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes
11/09/2018 – WKAR, Michigan State University – Safety group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes
11/09/2018 – WXYZ TV Detroit – Safety group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes
11/11/2018 – Grand Haven Tribune – Safety group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes
11/09/2018 – Northwest Indiana Times – Safety group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes
11/10/2018 – South Bend Tribune, IN – 2018 is the deadliest year for Great Lakes drownings
11/09/2018 – Chicago Tribune – Safety group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes
11/09/2018 – The Pantagraph, Bloomington, IL – Safety group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes
11/09/2008 – The News-Herald, OH – Safety group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes
11/13/2018 – The Crescent-News, Defiance, OH – Safety group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes
11/09/2018 – KSTP ABC 5, Minneapolis, MN – Safety group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes
11/09/2018 – CBS 4, MN – Safety group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes
11/09/2018 – Lancaster Online, Lancaster, PA – Safety group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes
11/09/2018 – Mankato Free Press, South-Central Minnesota – Safety group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes
11/09/2018 – TribLive, Pittsburg, PA – Safety group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes
11/09/2018 – SF Gate, San Francisco, CA – Safety group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes
11/09/2018 – New Jersey Herald – Safety group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes
11/02/2018 – Bridge Michigan – Bob Pratt, executive director of education for the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project and a retired East Lansing fire marshal, offers tips for staying safe while you’re enjoying the vast bodies of water.
11/02/2018 – Bridge Michigan – Great Lakes drownings peaked in 2018. And the year’s not over. More than 100 people have drowned in the Great Lakes so far this year, making it the deadliest year this decade already.
That’s according to a tally by the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, a nonprofit water safety group that keeps a comprehensive database of Great Lakes drownings.
The group has tracked 728 such drownings since it started gathering the data in 2010. That includes 105 drownings in the first 10 months of 2018, at least six more than any other year.
Lake Michigan, with its vast shoreline and beaches near large populations, has claimed the most lives thus far, 37, followed by Lake Erie, 33, Lake Ontario, 21, Lake Huron, 8, and Lake Superior, 6.
At least 13 of this year’s drownings were in Michigan waters, the data show. Another drowning — in September off of Lake Erie’s Turtle Island — happened along the Michigan-Ohio border.
11/02/2018 – WWMT – Greats Lakes rescue group said 2018 is seeing record number of drownings – A new report released Friday says 2018 is already the deadliest this decade for drownings in the Great Lakes.
The report, from a nonprofit called the “Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project” attributes the increase to warmer weather. Drownings typically spike in periods with what the project calls the three Ws — waves, winds and weekends. The report states that so far in 2018 there have been 105 drownings. That’s almost twice as many as I 2015. Also, the report states, most people who drown aren’t wearing life jackets.
10/31/2018 – UP Matters – Stay off piers, breakwaters during high winds, storms, wave action – Water Dangers. While many victims who have fallen or jumped off these structures were said to have been very good swimmers, the reality of past statistics paint a sad picture. In 2018 so far, there have been 102 drownings in the Great Lakes. Though not all of these drownings occurred at harbor structures, it is a grim reminder of the risks and dangers that are present when in and around water.
10/18/2018 – Detroit News – Tourists, residents alike hit by Mich. water deaths
10/14/2018 – The Record Eagle – DANGEROUS WATERS – Families, advocates deal with aftermath of death in or near water
10/10/2018 – CBC – Why are so many more people drowning in the Great Lakes? It’s been a deadly year in the Great Lakes with a record number of people killed by drowning. According to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project one hundred and two people have died so far in 2018. Their executive director of education, Bob Pratt, spoke with us about the spike in drowning deaths this year.
10/05/2018 – Kenosha News – Readers discuss installation of first life ring kiosk — Life rings are credited with saving lives in Grand Haven, Holland and St. Joseph in Michigan, and Gary and Michigan City in Indiana
10/03/2018 – Kenosha News – City installs first life ring flotation equipment at Kenosha Harbor — “All I can say is, it is amazing, an historic moment for the city of Kenosha, the city government and the people of Kenosha. (We) came together and now we will have lifesaving devices (going up) on the north and the south piers,” Jim Zondlak, a KSFCA board member and former president, said Wednesday.
At the Common Council meeting earlier this week, Zondlak thanked aldermen for approving Mayor John Antaramian’s amended proposal authorizing four of six planned kiosk installations. In addition, the council approved a resolution by Ald. Dan Prozanski Jr., stepping up water safety education annually in middle and high schools, guided by the U.S. Coast Guard in cooperation with the Kenosha police and fire departments, the Kenosha YMCA and the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. “I’m overwhelmed with pride in everyone coming together. I could feel the vibe in the Common Council,” Zondlak said.
10/01/2018 – Kenosha News – Council to consider authorizing installation of life saving devices at Pike River, pier – Initiatives intended to bring life-saving devices and public awareness to the dangers of drowning in Lake Michigan will come before the City Council tonight.
Among them will be a resolution authorizing the city to install three life ring buoys on Kenosha Harbor’s north pier, a life ring set on the south wall of the harbor and another near the mouth of the Pike River which feeds into the lake near the band shell at Pennoyer Park.
The devices are expected to be stored in a cabinet, or kiosk, and will include attached ropes. The devices will be accessible to the the public in the event of an emergency.
Another resolution aims to educate middle and high school students about water safety. It calls for presentations led by the U.S. Coast Guard in partnership with Kenosha police and fire departments, the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project and the Kenosha Unified School District. The month of May would also be declared as “Lake Michigan Safety Awareness Month.”
Both are coming before the council tonight after at least three drownings over the last four months, including Donovan Anderson, 17, of Kenosha, who died after jumping into the lake at the pier with friends on Sept. 6. His body was recovered less than two weeks later.
10/01/2018 – Buffalo News – For Erie and the Great Lakes as a whole, 2018 ties a deadly record — This year has been Western New York’s deadliest for drownings in Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. The seven local drownings in 2018 – and two others with local connections – make up what’s also been among the deadliest years throughout the Great Lakes.
In all, 99 people have died so far in 2018 on the Great Lakes, tying 2012 and 2016 for the highest number of deaths on record, data from the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project shows.
Those lost include a beloved Lancaster school teacher, a Southtowns fisherman and Hamburg liquor store owner who was kite-surfing.
Two other deaths on Lake Erie occurred just outside of New York waters, including the July drowning of a 12-year-old Elmwood Franklin School girl in Fort Erie, Ont.
Great Lakes drownings in WNY – The seven drownings on Lake Erie and Lake Ontario combined is more than double the number of fatalities this decade.
The Buffalo sector of the U.S. Coast Guard reported, anecdotally, that it has seen more and more distress calls in the water in recent years. This year has been no exception.
“It’s been a busy season – a lot of responses,” said U.S. Coast Guard junior grade Lt. Kyle Maxey. “I think that’s had a lot to do with paddle-boarding and an increase in the amount of watercraft on the Great Lakes.”
You could also blame the heat. The summer of 2018 was the region’s seventh warmest on record, which would tend to draw more activity to the shorelines by boaters, swimmers, paddlers and jet-skiers.
The two summers this decade warmer than this past one – 2012 and 2016 – were the equally deadly years on the Great Lakes.
The first two drownings of the season occurred on Lake Erie five days – and about 5 miles – apart in May.
Eric Przykuta, a 43-year-old seventh-grade science teacher at Lancaster Middle School, died in an evening accident when the fishing boat he was riding in with two other men struck the breakwall near the Small Boat Harbor. Przykuta’s body was recovered the next morning by the U.S. Coast Guard. An avid boater and outdoors enthusiast, Przykuta was not wearing a life vest.
A few days later, Hamburg fisherman Robert Maccubbin, 50, died after apparently going overboard from a raft into the 46-degree lake off of Athol Springs.
On June 21, the Surf Rescue Project cites another suspected drowning that occurred when the body of a man was recovered from Lake Erie off of Woodlawn Beach. Accomplished kite-surfer Jeff Biehler, who owned Biehler’s Village Square Liquors in Hamburg, died after taking to Lake Erie on a warm and gusty afternoon on Aug. 15 and running into trouble in choppy waters. Lifeguards at nearby Hamburg Town Beach tried reaching Biehler, but they were unable to.
Weeks earlier, Catherine Winfield Butsch, a 12-year-old girl known as “Caty,” died after apparently suffering a medical event while swimming near Fort Erie, Ont. Caty was found unresponsive near Crescent Beach in the late afternoon of July 21. Bystanders and medical personnel tried to resuscitate the girl, but she later died in a Buffalo hospital.
Lake Ontario saw its own share of water-related tragedies this summer with at least three drownings in five weeks, including:
- Stacy Fishbein, 21, of Vaughan, Ont., whose body was recovered July 28 near Olcott.
- Carl F. Hazel, 66, of Albion, who was on a fishing boat that sank Aug. 25 about 9 miles off of the Orleans County shore.
- Daniel Saik, 66, of Niagara Falls, Ont., whose body was recovered Aug. 31 along the lake shoreline in Burt.
In Hazel’s case, authorities said he was wearing a life jacket when his boat sank. Hazel and a companion were rescued by another fishing boat, but they’d been in the cold water for about two hours. His companion survived.
Other drownings across the Great Lakes drew international attention.
Former NHL goaltender and Stanley Cup champion Ray Emery died July 15 after he jumped off a boat to go swimming in Lake Ontario’s Hamilton Harbor and never resurfaced. The body of Emery, who was a native of Hamilton, was recovered later that afternoon about 60 feet from where he jumped in, according to a CTV News report.
On Aug. 30, a father and his three children drowned in a kayaking accident off a northern Wisconsin shoreline in Lake Superior. The Wisconsin family of five had launched a tandem kayak that afternoon to paddle to an island about 4 miles away, but the kayak capsized. Eric Fryman, 39, his two daughters, Kyra, 9, and Annaliese, 5, as well as his 3-year-old son, Jansen, drowned. The children’s mother, Cari Mews-Fryman, 29, was later rescued by a passing ship captain, according to a report in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Great Lakes drownings – Three of the warmest summers this decade have also brought the three highest numbers of annual drownings.
Think safety, be safe – Each drowning occurs because of its own set of circumstances, but experts say many of the tragedies are preventable.
The Coast Guard encourages anyone who plans to use a watercraft – whether a boat, Jet Ski, kayak or canoe – to seek the appropriate training first.
“Boater safety courses are one of the most important things you should do before heading out on a boat,” Maxey said.
Two other important tips from the Coast Guard: avoid alcohol and wear a life jacket.
“Wearing a life jacket is really important,” said Marty Denecke, the town of Hamburg’s director of youth, recreation and senior services.
Because of the number of boats, kayaks, Jet Skis and paddle-boats in the lake off of Hamburg’s shoreline, Denecke said the town takes extra precautions and stations some crew along the shoreline even when swimming at the town’s beach is closed.
“Surveying of the water, whether we are open or closed for swimming, is standard operating procedure,” Denecke said. “We don’t want it to happen on our watch. We take it very seriously.”
And even with that vigilance, tragedy struck twice this summer off of Hamburg’s shore.
Dave Benjamin, executive director of public relations and project management for the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, said family members who have lost a loved one often talk about how the drowning victim was physically fit and a good swimmer. Such was the case with Biehler, the Hamburg kite-surfer.
“Good swimmers drown,” Benjamin said. “Knowing how to swim is not enough; you need to know how to survive.”
Did you know? Benjamin’s regional nonprofit organization tries to prevent drownings through education and has tracked fatalities on all five lakes dating back to 2010. It’s the only organization collecting data for all drownings across all of the Great Lakes.
Benjamin gets people to think about water safety with a simple question: “Can you swim?”
Then he takes them through a series of common sense questions, including “What do you do if your clothes catch fire?” and “What number do you call in an emergency?”
Nearly all of the 30,000 people the organization surveyed knew the answers to those simple questions, and 90 percent of them knew how to swim.
The third question Benjamin asks stumps almost everyone: “What do you do if you’re drowning?”
“We’re not often playing with fire, but we are often playing in water,” Benjamin said.
That’s where the need for education comes in.
“Water safety is not common sense, but people assume it’s common sense,” Benjamin said. “There’s a stigma of drowning. People blame the victim.”
Benjamin added: “That’s getting in the way of getting funding for public education. Drowning is a public health issue, and it’s not treated like a public health issue.”
So, what do you do if you’re drowning?
“We call it the ‘flip, float and follow,’” Benjamin said, comparing it to the advice for if clothes catch fire. “It’s like the ‘stop, drop and roll’ of water safety.”
If you find yourself in deep water, the Surf Rescue Project recommends flipping over onto your back, floating or treading water with your head above the water and following a safe path out of the water.
The key is not panicking. Panic can trigger a set of physical symptoms – like shortness of breath and tightness in the chest – that can actually work against survival.
“When someone gets in trouble in the water, they have a panic attack.
“Do the opposite of your instincts. If you don’t get your breathing under control, you’re not going to survive.”
09/24/2018 – Kenosha News – Committees approve installing life rings, education resolution, violation penalties — In the wake of four lakefront drownings here the past two years, including most recently high school student Donovan Anderson, the city of Kenosha is moving toward a comprehensive approach to upgrade water safety.
It calls for the U.S. Coast Guard to make safety presentations to students in middle and high schools, in cooperation with the KPD, Kenosha Fire Department, Kenosha YMCA and the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.
09/16/2018 – Northwest Indiana Times – Water safety presentation tonight in Chesterton open to all – CHESTERTON — Learn how to stay safe while swimming in the Great Lakes during a presentation tonight at Bethlehem Lutheran Church. One hundred people have drowned in the Great Lakes this year, more than any other year since the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project began tracking drownings in 2010. In all, 723 people have died in all five Great Lakes since 2010, the project’s data show. In Lake Michigan so far this year, 33 people have drowned.
The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project will talk about water safety during a meeting at 5:30 p.m. Monday at Bethlehem Lutheran Church, 2050 W. 1100 North in Chesterton. The presentation is hosted by Chesterton Girl Scouts Troop 30373. The presentation is for everyone, including beachgoers, surfers, lifeguards, police officers, firefighters, paramedics, water rescue team members, dive team members and the U.S. Coast Guard, said Dave Benjamin, co-founder and executive director of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. The presentation will include information about drowning statistics; the signs of drowning; survival strategies, including “flip, float, follow;” how, why and where dangerous currents occur; basic water rescue; and basic water resuscitation.
09/13/2018 – Kenosha News – Mayor: Safest option is to fence off the north pier – Dave Benjamin, of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, put it similarly. “The indications are these incidents happen because the public isn’t educated and neither are the politicians. A throw ring, a rope and a hook, I would think, is about $50,” said Benjamin, who has been involved in the Kenosha YMCA’s project to promote water safety in the schools. “It’s time to stop talking about it and just do it,” Benjamin added. “Unfortunately, this boy probably would have survived if there was a throw ring there within 50 feet. If you smelled smoke right now, you would look for a fire alarm. If you saw someone drowning, you would look for a throw ring.”
“A life ring gives the opportunity to save a life or rescue a person, where a sign just won’t do that,” Costabile said. ”You know, we’ve all been guilty of being a pier jumper. I asked my dad, and he did it, too. As long as that pier and water are together we have to have a life-saving device available so we can help in a situation like we had last week.”
Robert Stanick, the Army Corps of Engineers area engineer for the Lake Michigan office, said the required lease is “a simple real estate agreement.” “These are done relatively quickly. It could be a matter of a few weeks depending on the complexity of the situation. We did one in Port Washington that was completed in four weeks. It was mounting multiple life rings on a pier,” Stanick said. He noted the city and the Corps already have a real estate agreement for the south pier of the harbor and might not need to do a new and separate one for the north pier. He said the city could ask to expand the existing lease to the north pier across the channel.
09/13/2018 – Kenosha News – Life rings helping save lives in beach locations – There should be no question that life rings are an important step toward public safety. Looking at other beach locations: life rings are credited with saving lives in Grand Haven, Holland and St. Joseph in Michigan, and Gary and Michigan City in Indiana, according to the non-profit Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. “If someone is drowning, they can find the life ring on the pier.” said Dave Benjamin, executive director of the organization.
The experience of Michigan City is worth sharing today and could offer insight and a road map for Kenosha officials. “Just call them the ‘rings of life,” read the headline of a July 30 story in the News Dispatch in Michigan City. “Mayor: Life rings along pier proving to be great investment.” Life rings were installed in Michigan City’s Washington Park in late 2016, and for at least the second time in July they were instrumental in saving a life.
Indiana conservation officials credited Myles Wright and Devin Newton with saving two young girls from drowning, the News Dispatch reported. “They absolutely came in handy,” Wright told the paper of the rescue in high winds and choppy water. “Without those rings, I’m not sure we could’ve gotten them out. The first girl might have been OK, but the second girl definitely would not. Without that ring, she would’ve gone under and been unconscious.”
Michigan City Mayor Ron Meer issued this statement: “It humbles me to know that the equipment we installed was utilized by two Michigan City residents to prevent drownings from occurring. I am so glad this had a good ending.”The city’s Fire Department, with the help of donations, raised money to buy the rings, ropes and cabinets; a $13,000 grant from ArcelorMittal to the city’s Lakefront Safety Committee allowed them to proceed with the purchase, the News Dispatch reported. “Through the efforts of the city and ArcelorMittal, two girls were rescued in rough waters on Tuesday,” the mayor said in late July.
Kenosha officials should act quickly when given approval to install the life rings and equipment and work toward permanent funding. Examples like this are out there.
09/10/2018 – WILX – Beach hazard issued with high waves, rip currents expected – “I hoped the Great Lakes drownings would subside after the 13 Labor Day weekend fatalities, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to slow down any time soon,” said Dave Benjamin, Executive Director of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. “This year is on track to be the worst year on record for the Great Lakes.”
A total of  drownings have been reported on the Great Lakes this year, 33 in Lake Michigan. Benjamin calls drownings a public health crisis.
“I cannot stress enough that drowning really is a public health issue that needs to be treated like a public health issue. A water safety school curriculum needs to be mandated and funded in the Great Lakes region as well as nationwide. Great Lakes drownings are just the tip of the iceberg of the nationwide drowning crisis.”
09/10/2018 – WTMJ – Non-profit hopes to teach “Flip, Float & Follow” water safety
09/10/2018 – FB Promo Today’s TMJ4 – LAKE MICHIGAN DROWNINGS: 33 people who have drowned in Lake Michigan this year. The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project is working to spread the word about what to do if you’re struggling in the water: flip, float, follow. Julia Fello has the story
09/09/2018 – The Herald Argus – Stay out of the water — Beach hazard issued with high waves, rip currents expected
09/08/2018 – The News Dispatch – Stay out of the water – Beach hazard issued with high waves, rip currents expected – “I hoped the Great Lakes drownings would subside after the 13 Labor Day weekend fatalities, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to slow down any time soon,” said Dave Benjamin, executive director of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. “This year is on track to be the worst year on record for the Great Lakes.” A total of 96 drownings have been reported on the Great Lakes this year, 33 in Lake Michigan. Benjamin calls drownings a public health crisis. “I cannot stress enough that drowning really is a public health issue that needs to be treated like a public health issue. A water safety school curriculum needs to be mandated and funded in the Great Lakes region as well as nationwide. Great Lakes drownings are just the tip of the iceberg of the nationwide drowning crisis.”
09/08/2018 – Fox 6 News – ‘On track to be the worst year on record:’ Almost 100 people have drowned in the Great Lakes in 2018
09/07/2018 – CBS 58 – “Beyond a nightmare:” Mother whose son drowned in 2013 calling for change after Kenosha teen drowns. Susan Foster lost her son five years ago on the same pier. She was watching the rescue efforts on Friday. “Really rough to see these boats out here and relive what we did five years ago,” Foster said. Her son, Ben drowned and it took 12 days for crews to find his body. “Broke my heart that this family is going to have to go through this… just like we did,” Susan Foster said.” To think that your child is in that water is beyond a nightmare.” Foster said her son was a pilot, athletic and a good swimmer, but Lake Michigan is just too dangerous.
09/07/2018 – Kenosha News – Search called off for teen presumed drowned in harbor – With conditions worsening on Lake Michigan, the Kenosha Fire Department ended the search for a teen presumed drowned in Kenosha Harbor. The Kenosha Fire Department, which is leading the search efforts, said it had searched the harbor channel and areas near the pier multiple times without success, and said conditions, including strong currents and 6-foot waves, were putting search crews at risk. The search was called off at about 4 p.m. “We’ve used literally everything at our disposal today — firefighters, drones, a helicopter, sonar — and have been unable to locate the victim at this point,” said Battalion Chief Matthew Haerter.
The 17-year-old boy was with friends when he jumped off the north pier at the harbor and was overcome by strong currents Thursday. Witnesses said the boy, a student at Indian Trail High School and Academy, was pulled under the water and surfaced twice, each time about 20 yards further away, before disappearing. The teen’s name has not yet been released.
09/06/2018 – WGN 720 AM – Water Safety with Dave Benjamin – Tonight on The Patti Vasquez Show with Andrea Darlas: To discuss water safety and to share some tips to stay safe we welcome Dave Benjamin (Director of Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, Halle Quezada, creator of the Chicago Alliance for Waterfront Safety, and John Kocher, co-founder of the Matthew Kocher Foundation).
09/06/2018 – Herald Argus – Man rescued after falling off pier – Lifeguards keep him from being ‘deadly weekend’ statistic – MICHIGAN CITY — A man who fell off the pier in Washington Park onto the rocks on Sunday was pulled from the water by lifeguards and taken to a hospital in stable condition. The Michigan City Fire Department and La Porte County EMS were called to the park just after 4 p.m. on Sunday.
09/06/2018 – WNDU – ST. JOSEPH, MI– Even though Labor Day is over and lifeguards are no longer on duty at beaches, many beach-goers are taking a final advantage of the warm weather. But according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, Lake Michigan has taken 31 lives this year alone, marking it one of the deadliest summers since 2010. That’s why the U.S. Coast Guard in St. Joseph, Michigan is stressing water safety as the seasons begin to change.
09/06/2018 – The News Dispatch – MICHIGAN CITY – A man who fell off the pier in Washington Park onto the rocks on Sunday was pulled from the water by lifeguards and taken to a hospital in stable condition.
“An elderly man fell off the wall onto the rocks near the lighthouse,” a Fire Department report said. When firefighters arrived, lifeguards had the man out of the water on a board, and firefighters assisted in carrying him over the wall and back to the beach, the report said.
“We heard a call come over the scanner that a man had fallen off the pier and hit his head,” Michigan City Parks Superintendent Jeremy Kienitz said. “Three of our lifeguards responded and were able to get to him and put him on a backboard to safely transport him to EMS once they arrived.”
The man was fortunate because Sunday was one of the last days lifeguards were on duty this season. Overall it was a deadly weekend on the Great Lakes, with at least a dozen drownings reported, three in Lake Michigan.
“This was the deadliest Labor Day Weekend since we started tracking statistics in 2010,” said Dave Benjamin, executive director of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.
“And the worst part of this weekend are the people on social media abusing the stigma of drowning and attacking the victims and their family members.”
The Lake Michigan victims, all of whom drowned on Friday, were a 25-year-old woman and a 30-year-old man in Chicago; and a woman in her 60s in Kenosha, Wisconsin. There were four drownings in Lake Erie and four more in Lake Superior, where a father and three children – ages 3, 5 and 9 – drowned when their kayak overturned near Madeline Island off Bayfield, Wisconsin. A 12th drowning was reported on Lake Ontario.
“Unfortunately this societal point of view gives the public the false sense of security that ‘It can’t happen to me,’ and ‘It can’t happen to me because I wouldn’t be that stupid,’ and ‘You can’t fix stupid,’ Benjamin said.
“‘I didn’t know…’ is the number one thing that we hear from family and friends of victims after a tragic event. Water safety is not common sense, yet most people assume it is common sense and that is one of the reasons why drowning continues to be a neglected public health issue.”
As of Tuesday, the GLSRP had confirmed 91 drownings in the Great Lakes this year, including 31 on Lake Michigan. That is the highest number for any year since 2010, except 2012 and 2016, when there were 99 for the entire year. Since 2010, the project has reported 710 drownings on the five lakes, 291 in Lake Michigan.
09/04/2018 – Northwest Indiana Times – Organization says recent Labor Day weekend deadliest for drownings since 2010 – This was the deadliest Labor Day weekend since the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project began tracking drowning statistics in 2010, the organization’s director said. There were 12 drownings in the Great Lakes over the holiday weekend, adding to the 91 total drownings that were recorded so far this year, according to a Tuesday news release from the organization. Since 2010, there have been 714 Great Lakes drownings.
09/04/2018 – Journal Sentinel – The body of a swimmer from Franklin who disappeared in Lake Michigan two weeks ago has been found, authorities reported Tuesday. Ahmad Z. Adl, 34, was part of a group of five people who were camping at Harrington Beach State Park in Ozaukee County on Aug. 20 when they decided to go swimming about 1 p.m. A search was launched for Adl when he didn’t return to shore. Adl’s body was found floating at Whitefish Dunes State Park in Door County at 7:54 a.m. Sunday
09/04/2018 – Fox 6 News – ‘The deadliest since we started tracking in 2010:’ 12 drownings in Great Lakes over Labor Day weekend
09/01/2018 – The News Dispatch – Caution urged when swimming in big lake — Two Lake Michigan drownings make for deadly start to long weekend
08/31/2018 – WZZM – Father and three children die after kayak capsizes in Lake Superior – Going into Labor Day weekend, the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project is warning people to be careful around the water.
08/28/2018 – NPR: Ideas Stream – It has been a deadly year on Lake Erie. We’ll talk with the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project about the dangers the lake still poses on these hot, final days of summer into fall. And if you’re drowning education comes from what you’ve seen on movies and television, you may miss the moment when your help is needed most. They’ll explain. Guests: Dave Benjamin, Executive Director, The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project and Melissa Zirkle, Great Lakes Safety Advocate
08/28/2018 – CBC News – Great Lakes swimmers ignoring warnings to stay out of the water, report says — 73 people have drowned in the Great Lakes this year
08/27/2018 – The Star Beacon – ASHTABULA — A memorial fundraising dinner has been scheduled to help the family of 16-year-old drowning victim Micah Nugent with funeral expenses. Nugent died Aug. 22 at MetroHealth Medical Center after getting caught in dangerous waves the day before at Walnut Beach.
Melissa Zirkle, of Madison, who is organizing the fundraising dinner, said she reached out to the Nugent family because she knew from experience their biggest need, aside from prayers, was help with funeral expenses. Zirkle, whose own 13-year-old son, Jermaine, drowned five years ago in Lake Erie, hopes to draw 200 people to the dinner. “I’ve hosted benefits and fundraisers many times before so I offered to host a benefit,” she said. “I want to get the word out and make this a wonderful turnout for this incredible deserving family.”
Zirkle has made it her mission to honor her son’s memory and save people from the same tragedy through water safety education. Her efforts, which include water safety classes for Madison and Ashtabula students in partnership with the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, earned her the honor as the Great Lakes Water Safety Consortium 2016 Water Safety Superhero of the Year.
Eighty-eight people drowned in the Great Lakes last year, and 73 to date in 2018, with 26 of the 73 in Lake Erie, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.
08/27/2018 – 9 and 10 News – Ohio Man Dies After Falling Off Frankfort Pier into Lake Michigan
08/26/2018 – MLIVE – Michigan surfer tells of attempts to save drowned man who was washed off pier — One of those attempted rescuers was surfer Ryan Gerard, 40, of St. Joseph. Gerard was at the Frankfort beach enjoying the day with his family, riding the cascading waves and stopping for breaks between sets. It was during one of those breaks that Gerard, owner of the Third Coast Surf Shop, noticed commotion near the pier. A few second later, Gerard realized someone was in trouble and sprang into action. The surfer recalled the accident and its heartbreaking aftermath in a long post published on his company’s Facebook page.
08/24/2018 – Cleveland 19 News – Ashtabula teen becomes latest Lake Erie drowning death in 2018 – Safety experts and government officials are expected to meet in Cleveland this fall to discuss water and swim safety in Lake Erie. A GoFundMe page has been setup to help Nugent’s family with funeral costs. Link in story.
08/24/1018 – Cleveland.com – Ashtabula teen dies after being caught in Lake Erie waves – Nugent was not swimming alone on Tuesday, according to a GoFundMe to support his family.
08/24/2018 – WKYC – 16-year-old swimmer drowns at Ashtabula’s Walnut Beach; 26 Lake Erie fatalities this year. 7 drownings have taken place on Lake Erie this month, including 5 in Northern Ohio. A GoFundMe page has been set up to assist the Nugent family with funeral arrangements. (Link in article.)
08/22/2018 – WGN 720 AM – The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project and great water safety tips – WGN Radio’s Patti Vasquez is joined by Dave Benjamin, Director of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project to discuss water safety and how you can stay safe while swimming during your aquatic fun.
08/22/2018 – WLS 890 AM the John Howell and Ray Stevens show – Live Water Safety Segment, Online here: http://player.listenlive.co/22231/ Call in with your questions, comments, and concerns too!!! Call or text during the show to 312-591-8900.
08/22/2018 – ABC 5 News Cleveland – A 16-year-old in critical condition after nearly drowning in Lake Erie; Lake Erie leads the Great Lakes in 2018 drownings with 25.
08/21/2018 – ABC 7 – Beach Hazard in effect for Lake Michigan Tuesday after 3 boys drown over weekend – As if on cue, surfers like Jim Hoop began showing up at Indiana’s Whiting Beach. “If you don’t know how to swim or do this, it’s absolutely not the time. Especially the lake,” Hoop said. “It’s nonstop. It’s not like the ocean where there is a lull in the wave. Here the wave is breaking every moment so it will suck you right out and down faster than you can expect.” The warnings come after three boys died this weekend after they were pulled from Lake Michigan in separate incidents. Two of the boys were Joshua Torres, 10, of Chicago, and Malik Freeman, 14, of Aurora, who were swimming in restricted areas at the same Indiana Dunes State Park beach.
08/20/2018 – WLS – ‘THEY SHOULD HAVE SAID SOMETHING’ – Malik’s mother, Micah Freeman, said she did not know that a 10-year-old boy had been pulled from the water just an hour before her son went under. “They should have said something, a 10 year old was just pulled out of the water lifeless. They should have said this, I would have taken my kids and went home,” Freeman said. From shore, Freeman had been keeping a close eye on her kids in the water when she noticed they drifted down a bit. “I started jogging a little bit to tell Malik to come closer, then I noticed his hand go up, then I started screaming ’cause I could tell he was in trouble at the time,” she said. Her husband, other beachgoers and just two lifeguards went into the water to help, Freeman said. “There were two other lifeguards with their hands on their hips just watching, I said, ‘I need you to help.’ He said, ‘We don’t have our gear,” she said. Malik, who his mother said was a good swimmer and knew the dangers of rip tides, was pulled out of the water a short time later. Life-saving measures were not enough. He was taken to a local hospital and then airlifted to a Chicago hospital where he was pronounced dead. Malik was to turn 15 next week. He was to be a sophomore at Waubonsie Valley High School in High School in Aurora.”He was so much fun and he was so protective of me, you couldn’t ask for a better kid, his heart was so pure,” Freeman said.
08/20/2018 – WWMT – Officials warn public of dangerous water, swimming conditions
08/20/2018 – Chicago Tribune – Number of kids drowning in Lake Michigan increases; dangerous conditions continue Tuesday
08/20/2018 – NWI Times – Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project: 22 people have drowned in Lake Michigan this year as NWS forecasts life-threatening swim conditions
08/20/2018 – Hawaii News – There have been 64 drownings in the Great Lakes this year so far, with Lake Erie accounting for the most deaths. According to statistics from the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, 23 people have died in Lake Erie between the start of the year and Aug. 19. The most recent drowning in Lake Erie according to the GLSRP occurred Friday morning when a man jumped out his boat near Put-in-Bay. He did not resurface. Lake Michigan follows Lake Erie with 21 total drowning deaths this year, including two this past weekend. Since the group started accumulating data in 2010, 687 Great Lakes drownings have been reported.
08/20/2018 – Cleveland Scene – More Drowning Deaths in Lake Erie Than Any Other Great Lake in 2018
08/20/2018 – Cleveland 19 News – Lake Erie has the most drowning deaths of the Great Lakes this year
08/20/2018 – Tuscon News – Lake Erie has the most drowning deaths of the Great Lakes this year
08/19/2018 – Your Erie – Water safety organization releases Great Lakes drowning statistics
08/19/2018 – ABC 7 – 3 boys, ages 10 to 14, die after being pulled from Lake Michigan at Indiana, Waukegan beaches – Friday evening a 14-year-old boy recovered from the water near Waukegan died Sunday. Saturday evening, 10-year-old Joshua Torres, of Chicago, and 14-year-old Malik Freeman, of Aurora, were pulled from the water within an hour of each other at the same Indiana Dunes State Park beach. Both boys also died.
08/19/2018 – WGN 9 – 3 boys drown during dangerous weekend for swimmers in Lake Michigan
08/19/2018 – NBC 15 – 2 killed, 1 in critical condition in separate drownings this weekend; bringing total to 64 across Great Lakes
08/19/2018 – Fox 6 – 2 killed, 1 in critical condition in separate drownings this weekend; bringing total to 64 across Great Lakes Unfortunately the boy in critical condition died. 65 Great Lakes Drownings in 2018; 24 of those in Lake Michigan, plus 1 last listed in Critical Condition. 688 Great Lakes drownings since 2010; 313 of those in Lake Michigan.
08/06/2018 – UpNorthLive – Safety tips for swimming in the Great Lakes — “It blows my mind that water safety curriculum isn’t in the state, statewide, because you’re always near a body of water,” said Dave Benjamin, the executive director of The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. “And it blows my mind that you have all these beaches with no life guards.”
08/06/2018 – WZZM – Tips for surviving a rip current in Lake Michigan – Rip currents are quite common in the Great Lakes; here are some survival tips if you get caught in one.
08/02/2018 – WSBT 22 – Special Report: What to do for a drowning victim after you call 911
07/31/2018 – WSBT 22 Promo – “When seconds count…”
07/30/2018 – Kenosha News – Water safety initiative calls on greater action to prevent drowning deaths — The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project gave a presentation Monday on water safety education to a group that included YMCA Executive Director Cindy Altergott, Somers Fire Chief Carson Wilkinson, John Raquet, and Peggy Burke, a Kenosha resident whose husband drowned in Lake Erie while on a fishing trip, among others.
The presentation focused on a number of ways people can prevent drownings, including the use of flotation devices, wearing life jackets, knowing weather and water conditions and identifying what drowning looks like.
The group also discussed ideas from staffing beaches with lifeguards to better signage indicating the dangers of swimming in dangerous areas, such as the Pike outlet, as well as flotation devices that could be placed in and around the piers. Some floats are equipped with live cameras and signals that allow 911 dispatchers to recognize that the device has been activated at a specific location.
The group recognizes funding will be a challenge but it also looked to see which businesses and nonprofits, as well as elected officials, step up to help bring water safety to the fore.
One thing for sure is it takes a community willing to come together to prevent drownings.
07/17/2018 – WNDU – Facebook Live – Beach Safety
07/17/2018 – WNDU – How to know if it’s safe to swim in Lake Michigan
07/17/2018 – Holland Sentinel – Second man drowns in Allegan County in two days
07/12/2018 – ABC Channel 10/13 – Under Water: Searching for Air Pt.
07/12/2018 – NBC – More Lifeguards, Signage Called for After Drowning Traged
07/12/2018 – WGN – After girl drowns in Lake Michigan, petition seeks extended lifeguard hour
07/12/2018 – Chicago Tribune – Darihanne’s death and lifeguard hours: Dealing with a fickle Lake Michigan
07/12/2018 – Chicago Tribune – A nighttime drowning in Lake Michigan – and no city lifeguards on duty prompts calls for change
07/12/2018 – Holland Sentinel – Advocates: More Great Lakes lifeguards are needed to prevent drownings – The Great Lakes State boasts the nation’s longest freshwater coastline. Each summer, tourists and locals in Michigan flock to beaches to cool off in the water. But along with beautiful sunsets on the shoreline and family memories, the Great Lakes carry danger in their powerful waters. Since 2010, 662 people have drowned in the Great Lakes, with nearly half of those drownings taking place on Lake Michigan. Yet despite of an average of 33 drownings per year, very few Lake Michigan beaches have lifeguards watching the waves.
“Lifeguards are the gold-standard when it comes to beach safety,” said Bob Pratt, education director at Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, a nonprofit which aims to eradicate Great Lakes drownings through water safety advocacy. “It’s frustrating to know there’s a solution to hundreds of people dying every decade from drownings, yet the powers that be don’t do what’s right.”
07/12/2018 – Holland Sentinel – Keep safe on the Great Lakes with these tips
07/12/2018 – Holland Sentinel – Quick Hits: Four thoughts on this week’s news 2. Invest in lake safety for summer – With Lake Michigan temperatures reaching into the 70s, we’re happy to share Holland’s beaches with tourists who come to soak up the West Michigan sun.
What we’re not happy to share is the danger that comes with swimming in the Great Lakes. As Audra Gamble and Melissa Frick reported Thursday, July 12, over 660 people have drowned in the Great Lakes since 2010. Almost half of those drownings take place in Lake Michigan. For those who aren’t from Michigan, the power of the big lake is often underestimated. This is especially true of teenage boys, who are some of the most likely populations to drown.
The “Pure Michigan” tourism campaign has been wildly successful, making Michigan a hotspot for summer vacations. To make the Pure Michigan campaign so effective, the state piled money into TV ads, billboards and radio spots. Perhaps it’s time the state also puts money into lifeguards that keep those families safe once they make their way to Michigan beaches.
The U.S. Coast Guard does a fine job of keeping Michigan’s waterways safe, but there’s clearly a need for more public education and eyes on the water to prevent us reporting on the 700th Great Lakes drowning later this year.
07/12/2018 – Kenosha News – Safety Around Water: Be aware of dangerous currents, winds and cold water
07/12/2018 – AP – US News & World Reports – Chicago Urged to Extend Lifeguard Hours After Drowning – The Chicago Park District is being urged to extend lifeguard patrols after the recent drowning of a 13-year-old girl.
07/10/2018 – WDIO – Thursday at Ten: Under Water: Searching for Air – According to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Program, there have been 660 Great Lakes drownings since 2010, and there have been 37 already this year. Drowning was the reported cause of death in 80 percent of recreational boating fatalities in 2016, according to the U.S. Coast Guard and 83 percent of who drowned were not wearing a life jacket. There are ways to keep you and your family safe. How can you tell if there are dangerous rip currents and what should we do if we are ever caught in one?
07/08/2018 – WLNS – A look at safety on the water, following 4 drownings in Mid-Michigan this week
07/08/2018 – WBEZ 91.5 – Why Do Chicago Beaches Ban Flotation Devices? – Many people underestimate the dangers that come with the windy, unpredictable local conditions on the Great Lakes, says Dave Benjamin, a safety advocate who heads the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.
“We’ve had 660 drownings in the Great Lakes since 2010,” he notes. “Half of those were in Lake Michigan,” and half of those happened in the south end of the lake, here in Chicago, and in Milwaukee and Northwest Indiana. Benjamin attributes these drownings, in part, to the shifting winds and dangerous water currents in the area. When you add flotation devices to that equation, he says, that combination can be surprisingly dangerous.
“These toys can actually pose some hazards that people are not aware of,” Benjamin says. “If there is a light offshore wind, it could blow the inflatable object into deeper water where the child or parent could go after it.” And when they go after it, he says, swimmers can end up in currents or winds that make it impossible to return. Other beachgoers can be blown far into the lake while on a flotation device that they can’t control. This happened to an Indiana couple in 2012 and to Chicago kids in 1988.
Two cousins — a boy and a girl — took a raft out near Montrose Harbor on a warm April afternoon, after the wind pushed them far into the lake. Finally, they jumped off to try to swim back, the winds were strong and the water was cold. A windsurfer was able to save the 11-year-old boy, but the boy’s 10-year-old cousin drowned. At the beaches in Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, flotation devices are permitted but authorities “caution their use for safety reasons during strong winds, specifically south winds, as they can push swimmers far into Lake Michigan.”
And at the many completely unguarded beaches throughout Michigan’s Harbor Country on the other side of the lake, swimmers can use flotation devices freely — but at their own risk. For those folks, Benjamin has some advice: “Don’t go out in an inflatable raft with an offshore wind,” he says. “And if the wind blows an inflatable toy out, just let it go. It’s not worth it.” Finally, if you have to choose just one flotation device for your next trip to the beach, he says, “make it a U.S. Coast Guard-approved, properly fitting life jacket.”
06/07/2018 – Detroit News – Near-tragedy inspires [Jamie Racklyeft’s] Great Lakes anti-drowning effort
07/06/2018 – ABC 7 – dangerous waves, rip currents make local beaches hazardous
07/05/2018 – Pioneer Press – Water recreation can be fun, but also dangerous — FRANKFORT — While people turn to the water to get relief from the summer heat, it can also be dangerous, especially on Lake Michigan.
According to statistics from the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, more people drown in Lake Michigan each year than any of the other Great Lakes. In 2017, 40 people drown in Lake Michigan. This year, seven have drown so far.
In any water emergency, the Great Lakes Surf and Rescue Project advocates a flip, float, follow strategy. If people think they are starting to drown, they need to remain calm and flip onto their backs and float. Just keep your head above water and keep your chest at the water level. Floating can calm people down. When people panic, they exhale more, and they deflate their lungs and lower their natural buoyancy. Floating also conserves energy. Once you are floating and calm, find the safest route out of the water.
07/05/2018 – Kenosha News – Another tragedy too easily avoided – It’s happened again — someone has drowned in Lake Michigan. In this most recent drowning, a 10-year-old girl was swimming near the area where the Pike River meets the lake Saturday evening when she began having trouble in the water. Her father, a 28-year-old Kenosha man who didn’t know how to swim, entered the water to save her. However, he soon got into trouble as well. When first responders arrived, he was “floating and being pushed by waves.” He was revived, but died two days later at a Kenosha hospital.
In 2015, Dave Benjamin, a spokesman for the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, an organization that seeks to prevent drownings in the Great Lakes, said Michigan enacted legislation that shields municipalities from lawsuits related to safety equipment near the water.
And those life-saving devices work. “First off, life rings really do save lives. It’s irresponsible to have that access to water without having lifesaving devices there,” Benjamin said. “A life ring is one of the easiest ways to save a drowning victim, especially off a pier. We don’t advocate pier jumping, but we know people will do it. So having the equipment there is great.” More signs and the addition of life rings and ropes may not prevent another drowning, but if just one person is saved, isn’t it worth it?
07/01/2019 – Chicago Tribune – DNR hosts free events for public to explore Lake Michigan Water Trail — Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project was in attendance and set up a tented booth next to the lakeshore to teach children and adults about safety when in the water. Bob Pratt, director of education, said he teaches people to flip, float and follow when encountering an emergency in the water. Most folks know to stop, drop and roll when they catch on fire, he said, but many don’t realize what to do when faced with a potential drowning situation in the water.
06/30/2018 – ABC 7 – GLSRP at IL DNR Lake Michigan Water Trail Event at Winthrop Harbor.
06/30/2018-2 – ABC 7 – GLSRP at IL DNR Lake Michigan Water Trail Event at Winthrop Harbor — Chicago Weather: Excessive Heat Warning in effect for area as heat wave continues Saturday
06/30/2018 – Daily Herald – Excessive heat warning extended to 7 p.m. Sunday – – “We call this a lake, but it’s really like an inland sea. But when you come and use the lakes, you need to remember it’s not like a backyard pool,” said Bob Pratt, of The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.
06/21/2018 – MLIVE – 99% of Great Lakes drowning victims weren’t wearing a life jacket — Since 2010, 643 people have drowned in the Great Lakes and all but six of those victims weren’t wearing a personal flotation device.
With summer’s arrival on Thursday, June 21, comes plenty of fun on the water, spurring officials, advocacy groups and loved ones of drowning victims to remind those recreating on a boat or kayak to always wear a life jacket.
To date this year, there have been 20 drownings on the Great Lakes, according to data from the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, a water safety advocacy group that tracks drownings. David Benjamin, a spokesman for the organization, said his team is working to confirm four additional drownings that may have taken place over the past few weeks.Seven of the 20 drownings this year occurred in Lake Michigan, which has been the deadliest of the Great Lakes over the past eight years.
There were 298 drownings on Lake Michigan since 2010 — making up about 46 percent of total drownings on the Great Lakes in the past eight years.
Benjamin said the number of drownings have fluctuated, but the dips in 2014 and 2015 were likely due to cooler-than-normal temperatures during the summer months. The organization doesn’t track inner-water drownings, like on rivers.
Benjamin got involved with the organization in 2010 after he nearly died from a drowning while surfing on the Great Lakes. Since then, he’s advocated for people to always wear properly fitted life jackets and take as many safety classes as possible, and then bigger tasks, like requiring retailers to sell life jackets with recreational watercraft, like paddle boards and kayaks.
People can find themselves in potential drowning situations after going overboard on a boat, simply jumping into the water to cool off or becoming detached from a towing activity, like water skiing or tubing.
But the No. 1 reason those people ultimately drown is because they weren’t wearing a life jacket. None of the Great Lakes drowning victims in 2017, for instance, were wearing a life jacket.
06/18/2018 – WNDU – Lifeguards get summer training for beach season
06/17/2018 – WSBT 22 – Lake Michigan beaches work to reduce drownings
06/15/2018 – WNDU – Officials prepare for busy Father’s Day weekend at Lake Michigan beaches
06/09/2018 – Video – GLSRP Open Water Surf Lifeguarding In-service…
06/08/2018 – NBC 5 – Authorities Warn of Dangers to Lake Michigan Swimmers
06/07/2018 – Post-Tribune – Lifeguards train to save lives at Indiana Dunes – On a windy day that caused the waves on Lake Michigan at Indiana Dunes State Park to be even more unpredictable than usual, Bob Pratt, Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project director of education, told the group of lifeguards that stood before him that they are going to train until they get it right.
“Most people’s experiences with lifeguards are at swimming pools, but a beach like Lake Michigan is far more challenging and requires a completely different skill set,” Pratt said. “We train harder than professional athletes in many cases. If (LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers star forward) has a bad day, he might not win the game. If a lifeguard has a bad day, someone might lose their life.”
Pratt and Dave Benjamin, GLSRP executive director, were tasked with leading over a dozen lifeguards, mostly teenagers, in an open water surf lifeguard training session Tuesday afternoon. Benjamin said, according to the Centers for Disease Control, that drowning is one of the leading causes of accidental death in the U.S. as well as worldwide, and that it is the leading cause of accidental death for children ages 1-4.
“We take the research, statistics and data and break it down, so beachgoers know it’s one of the leading causes of accidental deaths, which most people don’t know,” Benjamin said. “This summer with this grant (through the Indiana Department of National Resources), we can provide 24 hours of lifeguard in-service training for each Lake Michigan lifeguard.”
Benjamin said with the drowning of 16-year old boy, Angel Sedano of Gurnee, Ill., on Sunday, the number of Great Lakes drownings since 2010 is now 643, almost half of which occur in Lake Michigan. Benjamin said part of the training process is explaining the signs of a potential drowning victim and how to identify a potential victim.
“People assume drowning is a lot of waving, yelling and splashing as a long traumatic even at the surface of the water, but when someone is drowning it often appears as if they’re treading water,” Benjamin said. “If you don’t know what drowning looks like, you’ll miss it. We believe drowning is preventable and survivable.”
06/07/2018 – Western Michigan University – WSW: The Rare Lifeguard On A Great Lakes Beach In Michigan — Finding statistics on drownings in the Great Lakes is difficult. Malewitz says there is not a government source for those numbers. But the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project attempts to compile numbers by monitoring media and police reports. Bob Pratt, one of the two people who runs the project says there have been at least 640 drownings on the Great Lakes since 2010. But Pratt says it’s possible the number is higher.
Despite what is called a “vastly neglected area of public health,” it’s rare to find a lifeguard on a Great Lakes beach in Michigan. New Buffalo is an exception, there was a backlash when the city budget did not include money for lifeguards. Malewitz says after a very heated public meeting, the city council decided to stay the course for now, and keep lifeguards on New Buffalo beaches.
06/06/2018 – CBS – News of the Day – Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project; Lake Michigan Water Safety Presentation in Ogden Dunes June 16th.
06/06/2018 – CBS 2 – Mobile Weather Lab: Drowning Prevention — CBS 2’s Ed Curran is live with the Mobile Weather Lab to discuss drowning prevention. The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project reports 20 people have already drowned so far this year.
05/21/2018 – Chicago Tribune – From one end of the region’s Lake Michigan shoreline to the other, officials who oversee beaches are making similar plans to line up lifeguards before Memorial Day weekend, the official kickoff of beach season.
The lifeguards, officials said, are in place for a reason: Lake Michigan can be dangerous and unpredictable. According to statistics from the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, a water safety advocacy organization, Lake Michigan claimed 291 lives between 2010 and 2017.
The year 2012 was the deadliest of those years, with 50 drownings; 2016 followed with 46. The lake claimed 40 lives last year, according to the project’s statistics.
At the Hammond Marina, Kruszynski said lifeguards would be on duty from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week starting Memorial Day weekend.At Whihala Beach in Whiting, lifeguards have been a part of the seasonal mix as long as Mike Nastav, recreation director for Whiting Parks and Recreation, can remember.
“We feel it’s for the best for the safety. It’s obvious how dangerous Lake Michigan can be. The weather can change at the flick of a switch with the wind and the waves. We’re pretty cautious,” he said.
Indiana Dunes State Park, which has a large swath of beach in front of the pavilion, expanded its lifeguard corps last year to cover more territory, said property manager Brandt Baughman.
Previously, the beach east of Dunes Creek did not have lifeguards during the week but as that section of the beach got busier, the park could justify adding lifeguards there seven days a week, he said, adding the beach west of the creek had lifeguards seven days a week.
Last year was the first season the park had lifeguards on both sides of the creek for the entire week.
“I think that was something that made the park run a lot smoother,” Baughman said, adding people didn’t understand why that section of the beach was closed.
The park will have 20 lifeguard positions this year, comparable to last year, he said.
05/11/2017 – LaPorte County Life – City of Michigan City Shares Swimming Safety – “Swimming is a fun and enjoyable activity for children and adults alike, and it’s an easy way to stay physically active and improve strength, flexibility and stamina,” said Park Superintendent Jeremy Kienitz. “The City of Michigan City is committed to providing as many opportunities as possible for everyone to swim and learn water safety practices.”
As part of National Water Safety Month in May, the City of Michigan City and Michigan City Area Schools have collated together in an effort to prevent “water emergencies.” Beginning May 15, 2017, Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project (GLSRP) will be educating our youth on the necessity of Lakefront Safety.
During this time students will learn the following safety tips to practice when in and around the water:
Only swim when and where there is a lifeguard on duty; never swim alone.
Adults should constantly and actively watch their children.
Inexperienced or non-swimmers should wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
Parents or guardians of young children should be within an arm’s reach.
Children and adults should not engage in breath holding activities.
The Michigan City Fire Department is always concerned about the safety of our personnel and the safety of the public,” stated Fire Chief Randy Novak. “Drownings are 100% preventable, and we are committed to preventing all drowning’s in the City of Michigan City and adjacent communities. GLSRP is one of those water safety programs that we feel will assist us with reaching our goal of zero drownings.”
05/10/2018 – WNDU – Flip, Float, and Follow – U.S. Coast Guard stresses water safety as summer approaches – “Even the best of swimmers can get caught in something,” said BM2 Casey Johnson of Station St. Joseph. “For 2016, we had almost the highest number of fatalities and a lot of those came from paddle boarders or kayakers.”
05/04/2018 – Holland Sentinel – 3. Take proper precautions near the waterThere were 88 drownings in the Great Lakes last year, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. There have been six in 2018 already. Don’t be another statistic. Pay attention to red flag days, where it is not safe to enter the water; bring along flotation devices in case you tire while in the water; and, most importantly, watch out for one another. Be safe this season.
04/30/2018 – rockthelake.com – Why you should wear your lifejacket if you paddle this spring: safety tips for chilly Lake Erie
First, put on your personal flotation device — and dress for the water temperature, which in Lake Erie Monday was about 38 degrees. Since 2010, 631 people have drowned in the Great Lakes, said Bob Pratt, director of education for the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. About 85 percent of them are men. And most drownings happen during this most dangerous time of the year, when frigid water incapacitates people who accidentally fall in. The U.S. Coast Guard on Saturday suspended the search for a man who reportedly fell off a boat in Sandusky Bay Friday night. “If you fall into 40-degree water without a life jacket on, your survival is measured in seconds — even if you’re a really good swimmer,” Pratt said. That’s because the body’s instant response to cold water is to gasp.
“This isn’t just a little gasp, like the kind you’d experience if somebody jumped out of a closet and scared you,” says the National Center for Cold Water Safety. It’s a huge gasp that totally fills your lungs… If your head is underwater when you gasp, you will immediately drown, and without the support of a PFD, you will head straight for the bottom.”
Men are less likely to take safety precautions, Pratt said. Hence, more drownings.
He urges kayakers, boaters and paddlers to wear their lifejackets, rather than just have them aboard. He compares lifejackets to seatbelts; you don’t put them on after you’re in a crash.
04/29/2018 – WSBT – Conference discusses ways to prevent drowning
04/24/2018 – Southend Tribune – New Buffalo votes to keep lifeguards this summer — “If you remove lifeguards, when seconds count help is going to be minutes away,’’ Benjamin said.
04/23/2018 – ABC 57 – New Buffalo votes to keep lifeguards this summer — The New Buffalo city council voted Monday to keep lifeguards on duty at least for one more summer. Although the council voted to keep the lifeguards this summer, it will revisit the discussion in the fall to determine if the program will continue in the future.
04/23/2018 – WNDU – New Buffalo beach will keep lifeguards – Mayor Lou O’Donnell IV who said he thought the city was rushed into the idea of going guard less, and that the city should “step back and look at this more carefully.” After another summer of the status quo, the mayor said the subject should be revisited in the fall.
04/23/2018 – WSBT – New Buffalo leaders have decided to keep lifeguard program for the summer
04/19/2018 – Record Eagle – Free YMCA class encourages adults to test the waters
04/18/2018 – Water Safety in Racine – The City of Racine, Wisconsin is using the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project project’s illustrations, the Signs of Drowning and Flip Float and Follow. Pretty sweet
04/18/2018 – Harbor County News – Don’t balance budget on backs of swimmers
04/14/2018 – Southbend Tribune – New Buffalo considers eliminating lifeguards Official: Understaffing creates ‘false sense of safety
04/12/2018 – Dave Benjamin speaks out at New Buffalo City Council Meeting – Lifeguards save lives, are an asset, are first responders.
04/12/2018 – Nora Howe speaks out at New Buffalo City Council Meeting – Don’t balance the budget on the backs of swimmers.
04/12/2018 – Peter Carey Speaks out at New Buffalo at City Council Meeting – to oppose the termination of the beach lifeguards
04/12/2018 – ABC 57 – Open forum held to discuss the future of New Buffalo lifeguards — “We were given three minutes today to talk about the importance of lifeguards, only three minutes. We want people to understand that for a drowning victim three minutes is the world,” says David Benjamin of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. A final decision on whether to keep the lifeguards on New Buffalo beaches will be made at a public hearing at the end of May.
04/12/2018 – ABC 57 – Open forum to discuss future of New Buffalo lifeguards to be held Thursday
04/12/2018 – WZZM – Michigan beach town of New Buffalo axing its lifeguards, despite drownings — Last year, 40 people drowned in Lake Michigan, down slightly from 46 a year earlier, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, a safety group that tracks drownings.
04/12/2018 – WNDU – New Buffalo City Council debates removal of lifeguards from budget — City leaders say they are simply not equipped to have well-trained lifeguards on duty at the New Buffalo beach. “I can’t get enough qualified lifeguards to apply,” said Richards. “I can’t employ enough qualified lifeguards, and we are creating the illusion of providing a lifeguard service; which I don’t think is fair to the community or to the beach users.”
04/12/2018 – WSBT – No lifeguards this summer? Future of New Buffalo lifeguard program in doubt — New Buffalo leaders are still debating the future of the city’s lifeguard program. They didn’t set any money aside in the budget for this summer or next. Some people are pretty unhappy about that.
Even on a beautiful day like today, they say the Great Lakes can be dangerous. Swimmers need to be protected from those dangers. But leaders with the city say that protection isn’t real, and is a liability. I can’t employ enough qualified lifeguards,” said David Richards, city manager. “We are creating the illusion of providing a lifeguard service, which I don’t think is fair to the community or to the beach users.”
Dave Benjamin with the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project says he’s seen lifeguards save lives in New Buffalo. He says the average beach-goer doesn’t know enough about water safety.
04/11/2018 – Detroit Free Press – Michigan beach town of New Buffalo axing its lifeguards, despite drownings — The city of New Buffalo wants to eliminate its dozen life guards due to liability, said city manager David Richards.
“It’s at the suggestion of our insurer, we’re eliminating life guards – at least proposing to eliminate life guards,” Richards said. Instead of lifeguards, he said, the beach would use existing flags and signs noting that visitors are swimming at their own risk.
[SWIM AT YOUR OWN RISK is a Fallacy!] “It’s not a matter of ‘if’ people will die from this fatal decision but ‘when,’” said Dave Benjamin, executive director of the Great Lakes Rescue Project. Since 2010, the Great Lakes Rescue Project has recorded 631 drownings in the Great Lakes.
“It’s risky to have lifeguards on duty. They give the impression that they are able to protect people when they go into the water and that’s not the case,” said David Richards, city manager.
Dave Benjamin with the Great Lakes Surf Rescue project couldn’t disagree more.
04/11/2018 – WSBT – New Buffalo leaders consider cutting lifeguard program – “Having no lifeguards at the beach makes it a lot less safe. On a long enough time line, I don’t believe it’s if we’ll have a drowning, it’s when will we have a drowning,” said Benjamin.
He says New Buffalo beach is unique because of the jetties and the boat channel. Benjamin says frequent winds from the north cause currents along the shore line.
“When they hit that pier, they go out and around that pier and one of the duties of lifeguards at that beach is to keep people from swimming in the water around that pier,” said Benjamin.
The city hasn’t made a final decision about the lifeguard program. Richards says the council has special meetings Thursday and Friday.
“They will decide if they want to move forward with lifeguards, and if they do then we will schedule public meetings for the residents to come in and express their opinions,” said Richards.
04/04/2018 – Northwest Indiana Times – Water safety group to debut public safety announcement via Facebook Live — The public service announcement has a focus on the Great Lakes, but is applicable to all bodies of water. It’s being presented by the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project in partnership with the National Drowning Prevention Alliance, the Great Lakes Water Safety Consortium and the Matthew Kocher Foundation.
The announcement will include comments from National Drowning Prevention Alliance Lifesaver of the Year award winners Bob Pratt, of East Lansing, Michigan; Melissa Zirkle, of Ashtabula, Ohio; and John and Kathy Kocher, of Tinley Park. The film also features NDPA Community Lifesaver Award winner Dave Benjamin, of Homewood, and drowning survivors Evelyn Hernandez, of Chicago, and Jamie Racklyeft, of Ann Arbor.
04/04/2018 – Journal Review – Water safety group to debut public safety announcement today via Facebook Live
03/30/2018 – The Herald Argus – Flip, float and follow — Surf Rescue educator gives advice for surviving in rough water
03/29/2018 – The News Dispatch – Bob Pratt, executive director of education at the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, spent the past week providing water safety education to Michigan City Area Schools students, and opened each of their 16 different presentations with the quiz [which ended with, “What do you do if you are drowning?”. Less than 5% of the students can answer it. ]
“We do such a great job teaching kids about fire safety, tornado drills, earthquakes, school shooters; but the fact of the matter is that drowning kills more people than all of those things combined,” Pratt said. “Yet there’s so little education regarding water safety, and we live on the shores of one of the most beautiful lakes in the country.”
Erin Breen, a kindergarten teacher at Marsh Elementary School, said, “Living in a beach community, our kids need this training. ‘Flip, float and follow’ should be second nature to them the way ‘stop, drop and roll’ is. I appreciate the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project for coming to MCAS, because the more kids who are exposed to this information, the fewer water-related accidents we’ll have.”
Since 2010, 631 people have drowned in the five Great Lakes; and 295 of those drowned in Lake Michigan.
03/29/2018 – Herald Palladium – Silver Beach seeks lifeguards, offers safety info — Lifeguards at Silver Beach must be at least 16 years old and have current American Red Cross (or equivalent) lifeguard certification and CPR certification for adults, children, and infants.
Pay is $10.40 an hour. Applicants will have to pass a lifesaving test at a local indoor pool before being hired.
Silver Beach lifeguards receive additional training throughout the summer season from U.S. Coast Guard, local law enforcement, and Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, among others.
03/14/2018 – MSU – Great Lakes Water Safety 2018 – Conference to address dangerous currents that continue to take lives April 26-27, Evanston, IL
03/13/2018 – NWI Times – Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project educators stress water safety to kids, say specific techniques should be learned LAKE STATION — Officials with the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project said schools today will conduct fire drills, tornado drills and active shooter drills, but there are no schools that conduct water safety education. Yet, more school-age children may die from drowning each year in the United States than die in fires, tornadoes or even school shootings, they said. Edison sixth-grader Dakota Sullivan said he can swim a little but not very well. He said the most important aspect of what he learned was that “floating is the key to survival.”
02/19/2018 – NWI Times – UPDATE: Flood warnings issued for Little Cal at Munster, Kankakee River — Despite the warm-up, shelf ice remained along the Lake Michigan shoreline, prompting a warning Monday from the nonprofit Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. The nonprofit issued a warning that walking on shelf ice is extremely dangerous after it received reports of two groups of people walking on shelf ice near Gary’s shoreline last weekend. A person easily can fall into hidden holes in shelf ice, with little chance of climbing out.
02/19/2018 – WLS 7 – Dangerous shelf ice forms along Lake Michigan
02/17/2018 – MDJ Online – Teaching others to swim safely — Benjamin’s life changed forever Dec. 26, 2010, when he had a nonfatal drowning accident.
He had a bad wipe out, fell on his back and had the wind knocked out of him. Waves pushed him to the bottom [and he struggled] for about two minutes, before he could get back to the surface and cough up the water. It took him another 38 minutes to float and backstroke back to the shore.
Benjamin decided he wanted to teach others about water safety and drowning prevention, and [organized] a surfboard rescue class in June 2011 [led by Bob Pratt]. A wide audience of police officers, firefighters, everyday people and surfers showed up, and the project grew.
He now serves as a [co-founder] and executive director at the nonprofit Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, which has given 487 presentations since 2011. About 300 more presentations are scheduled this year, with 100 of those in Northwest Indiana, he said.
“Unfortunately, water safety and drowning survival is not common sense,” he said. “It’s a silent epidemic that gets very little proactive funding or attention.”
02/09/2018 – Petosky News – Water safety education important at any age
02/05/2018 – WWMT – Lake Michigan Winter Surfing
01/28/2018 – Lake Michigan Surfing – Mike Killion’s Monday Recap for the boyz
01/28/2018 – Lake Michigan Surfing – Gerri Matras Lanter Video
01/02/2018 – CTV News – ‘We must do better’: Group tracks 88 drownings on Great Lakes in 2017
01/01/2018 – PR – 88 Great Lakes Drownings in 2017; 625 Great Lakes Drownings since 2010 – Mom of drowning victim speaks out and helping schedule Water Safety Presentations for 2018
12/13/2017 – Michigan State University Extension, Michigan Sea Grant – Great Lakes waves can make lake viewing dangerous — Don’t get swept away this winter while sightseeing near the Great Lakes.
Drownings occur in the Great Lakes every year. According to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, at least 99 people drowned in the Great Lakes in 2016; 622 since 2010. Many of these deaths happen when people swimming end up in dangerous currents such as rip or structural-caused currents. Other drownings happen because of boating or kayaking accidents. And several deaths each year occur when people are blown or washed off breakwaters, docks, cliffs and other similar nearshore structures.
Preventing these drownings in the Great Lakes can be as easy as checking the weather report. Any month of the year there is the potential for high waves in the Great Lakes. If you are headed to a Great Lakes shoreline to walk out on a breakwater, climb some nearshore rocks, or jog along a lakeshore path, it’s important to know what the predicted wave and wind patterns will be for the day. If the waves and winds will be high, then stay away from these types of areas. Be aware that icy buildups can increase your risk of falling in even on relatively calm days. It’s better to watch waves and the water from a safe distance, than to risk losing it all.
11/24/2017 – Petoskey News – Preventing people from jumping from the pierheads on Lake Michigan is the best action to take.
Officials from Michigan State University Michigan Sea Grant Extension, Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project and the Great Lakes Water Safety Consortium also were in attendance. Each of them took time to express the importance of water safety and education.
Leland Township Supervisor Susan Och also spoke about a young person who drowned on Aug. 30, 2012, at Vans Beach after jumping from a pier similar to Charlevoix’s. “I wish I wasn’t here. I wish that I didn’t know anything about structural currents, about rip currents,” Och said. “I was on the town board at the time (of the drowning) and that was the worst town board meeting ever … all of these seats are filled with people who want to know why you didn’t do something. There is a lot of regret.”
11/10/2017 – Green Bay Press Gazette – Blaming drowning victims is stupid, cruel
11/08/2017 – WBAY ABC 2 – State of Lake Michigan conference highlights importance of water safety education – One man says water safety education in schools could help stop what he calls a drowning epidemic in the Midwest. Since 2010, Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project statistics show there have been 622 drownings in the Great Lakes, 292 of them in Lake Michigan, with 41 Lake Michigan fatalities so far this year.
10/27/2017 – Petoskey News – Officials: Pier-jumping illegal, dangerous activity – About 1/3 of drownings are current-related – “People should be aware of the dangers in the Great Lakes,” Benjamin said. “Our goal is to prevent Great Lakes drownings through training, public preparedness, and public awareness.”
Since 2010, 267 people have drowned in Lake Michigan, nearly half of all 564 Great Lakes drowning deaths. The only year with more than 100 deaths on all Great Lakes was in 2012, with 101 drowning deaths. “On average almost half — 47 percent — of all Great Lakes drownings happen on Lake Michigan,” Benjamin said.
Experts said the distinctive shape of the lake, which is 307 miles long with parallel, uninterrupted shores running north to south, makes it susceptible to dangerous currents. Lake Michigan is also the Great Lake with the sandiest shores, drawing more visitors and creating tides along sandbars that are deceptively strong and prone to risky currents.
“On all of the Great Lakes, Winds equals Waves and Waves equals Dangerous Currents,” Benjamin said. “The configuration of Lake Michigan as well as its residential population density and tourism population density creates a higher probability for accidents; i.e. simply said, the more people in and around the water, the more possibility for an accident to happen.”
Men, especially, are susceptible to drowning. Benjamin said 80 percent of drowning victims are male. “The psychology of men is that they’re more likely to take risks, to succumb to peer pressure and overestimate their abilities,” he said. “Boys don’t know that, moms don’t know that. Water safety is not common sense.”
Benjamin said, in his opinion, that’s where lifeguards are critical. “Lifeguards are first responders and just as important as police and firefighters,” he said “We’re a huge advocate for lifeguards. One of the biggest objections to having lifeguards, is that there’s no funding,” Benjamin added. “But if Pure Michigan can spend more than $30 million a year to bring people to water, which has billions of dollars in return through tourism, there’s money out there.”
He said that according to the World Health Organization, drowning continues to be a neglected public health issue. “This isn’t just Michigan. Every state has a tourism budget to bring people to water. In our opinion, drowning should be treated like a public health issue,” he said.
09/26/2017 – Manistee News Advocate – Fall and winter season pose new hazards to fishermen – The danger of drowning doesn’t disappear with the summer season. While some news outlets are claiming Lake Michigan saw fewer drowning deaths this past summer season than in 2016, Dave Benjamin, executive director of public relations and project management for Great Lakes Surf and Rescue Project, says people need to look at the big picture, not just during peak swimming months.
“We still have four more months to go,” Benjamin said. “Now what happens is, people may not see any more swimming drownings, but people might be washed off the pier, fall out of a boat or, as we get into December, fall through the ice while ice fishing. It could be kayakers, people on paddleboards or other recreational activities.” (Full Story here)
09/24/2017 – Holland Sentinel – ‘A much better summer:’ Drownings down from 2016 — Five people died in Ottawa County waters last year. This year, two drowned.
09/21/2017 – The News Dispatch – Surfing documentary to be held at Fire & Water – MICHIGAN CITY — A showing of “Southend: The Place Where I Go Surfing,” will be held at Fire & Water, 6 on the Lake, Michigan City (in Washington Park), on Friday at 6 p.m. A reception will be held at 5:30 p.m., and a question and answer session will be held at 7:10 p.m.
09/20/2017 – On Milwaukee – Our dear Lake Michigan is the deadliest of the Great Lakes [NOTE: The drowning stats listed in this article are outdated at 537 Great Lakes Drownings since 2010. The updated stats are 612 Great Lakes Drownings since 2010.]
09/10/2017 – The Cutoff News – Surfing the Region: Filmmaker brings documentary to NWI. “Southend: The Place Where I Go Surfing” was screened Sept. 14 at The Towle Theater in Hammond and will be screened again Sept. 22 at Fire and Water At Washington Park in Michigan City.
09/08/2017 – Post-Tribune – Sand, surf season ends with no drownings at lakefront parks. Note: There was a mix-up of some of the statistical information in the story.
“46” was the 2016 Lake Michigan Drownings yearend total.
If we we’re comparing Labor Day 2016 with Labor Day 2017…
By Labor Day 2016 there were 36 Lake Michigan Drownings.
By Labor Day 2017 there were 33 Lake Michigan Drownings.
09/05/2017 – Associated Press – Water Safety Group Finds Fewer Lake Michigan Drownings
A water safety nonprofit group has found that the number of drownings decreased this swim season on Lake Michigan compared with last year.
09/04/2017 – Chicago Sun-Times – 33 Lake Michigan drownings so far this year; down from 36 last year – Thirty-three people have drowned in Lake Michigan so far this year, compared with 36 in the same period last year. Three bodies found in the lake this year are not yet confirmed as drownings, said David Benjamin, executive director of the safety group.
A man was pulled from Lake Michigan on Friday morning near the 31st Street beach, but his cause of death hasn’t yet been confirmed nor has he been identified.
09/02/2017 – WZZM – 68 people have drowned in the Great Lakes in 2017
09/02/2017 – WISN ABC – Surfer helps save man from rough Lake Michigan At Bradford Beach
09/01/2017 – WNEM – Report: 68 drownings reported in Great Lakes this year
09/01/2017 – WLNS – Great Lakes drownings prompt warning for holiday swimmers
08/31/2017 – ABC 10 & 13 – August Was Deadliest Month So Far on Lake Superior in 2017 – Five people drowned in Lake Superior in August, with four drownings in a 2-week span.
08/30/2017 – Harbor County News – Summer of Saving Swimmers: New Buffalo lifeguards reflect on busy season NEW BUFFALO — The lifeguard crew at New Buffalo’s public beach has been very busy this summer. “My sister and I have rescued 17 people,” said 21-year-old Emily Richards while setting up for another day of guarding the beach on Friday, Aug. 25.
Emily Richards said the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project organization (including Bob Pratt and Dave Benjamin) has worked with the New Buffalo lifeguards on water safety issues such as board rescue techniques (which she has since used in actual rescues). “It’s fun to learn from people that have the same passion for lifeguarding that we do,” she said.
08/18/2017 – Detroit Free Press – Great Lakes drownings reach 600 since 2010 – While many folks in Michigan are turning their thoughts from summer days at the beach to backpacks and school supplies, there are still several weeks of warm weather for families to enjoy at the lake.
But that comes with a special warning as the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project releases the latest drowning statistics for the Great Lakes.
Since 2010 there have 600 drownings in the five Great Lakes. According to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, on average almost half of all Great Lakes drownings happen in Lake Michigan. They released their latest report Thursday.
The good news is that drownings are down this year over last year at about this time. By Sept. 2, of 2016, 73 drowning deaths had occurred. We are two weeks away from that date and so far this year the number stands at 63. While that is a step in the right direction, one life lost to drowning is too many. Just last week a father and daughter died after being rescued from dangerous currents in Lake Superior. Experts say too often swimmers overestimate their abilities and underestimate dangerous conditions.
08/13/2017 – WBBM’s At Issue: Drowning & Water Safety – Every year dozens of people will drown while swimming in Lake Michigan and the other Great Lakes preventable deaths in most cases. WBBM’s Mike Krauser talks with Dave Benjamin, Executive Director at the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project about the risk of drowning and water safety.
08/11/2017 – My Sheboygan – Sheboygan resident and surfer Larry Williams talks about water safety.
08/08/2017 – Detroit Free Press – Illinois boy, 4, dies days after being pulled from Lake Michigan – In 2016, 98 people drowned in the Great Lakes – ranging in age from about 9 to 75, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, a nonprofit that tracks incidents and spreads awareness. The number nearly doubled the previous year, and was the worst for drownings since 2012.
08/05/2017 – Northwest Indiana Times – 7 ways to avoid drowning in Northwest Indiana
08/05/2017 – CBS 2 Chicago – Hammond Woman, Kaitlynn Boswinkle, 24, Found Dead in Gary’s Marquette Beach
08/01/2017 – Harbor County News – Matthew Ramirez, M-4 – a 4-year-old boy ‘fighting for his life’ after being pulled from Lake Michigan at Warren Dunes State Park on Tuesday afternoon. The preliminary investigation revealed several children were playing in the water and family members believed he had exited the water and returned to the beach with other family members.
07/31/2017 – WBEZ Public Radio – The GLSRP’s Dave Benjamin was be on WBEZ’s Morning Shift, 91.5 FM, Monday to discuss the current Great Lakes drowning statistics and Great Lakes Water Safety with host, Jenn White.
07/31/2017 – The Journal Times – Drowned teen’s life goal ‘was to help people’ — Water Safety Tips: Only one third of drownings that occur are due to dangerous currents, according to Dave Benjamin Executive Director of Public Relations for the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, a non-profit based in Illinois that educates school children about the dangers of water. “Something happens in the water that causes panic. When you are struggling in water over your head we recommend you flip over on your back, float and then follow the safest path out of the water,” Benjamin said. “When you are on your back try to cough to get the water out and calm yourself down.” Benjamin said flotation is the key — only five out of 589 reported Great Lakes drowning victims wore life jackets. “You have a better chance of survival in the Great Lakes if you have a life jacket. People don’t use them because they’re not fashionable, and restrictive or because they overestimate their true swimming ability,” Benjamin said.
07/29/2017 – NBC 5 – Brandt Miller, Flip, Float, and Follow & Weather App
07/28/2017 – Detroit Free Press – Lifeguards are the first reponders on the beach!
07/28/2017 – Detroit Free Press – 5 teens rescued from Lake Michigan, 3 hospitalized — This year, 49 people have drowned in the Great Lakes, at least 22 of them in Lake Michigan, where hidden rip currents are known to pull people away from beach areas, causing them to panic. In 2016, 98 people drowned in the Great Lakes – ranging in age from about 9 to 75, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, a nonprofit that tracks incidents and spreads awareness. The number nearly doubled the previous year, and was the worst for drownings since 2012.
07/28/2017 – WLS 7 – Life threatening waves, rip currents lead to swim bans – The latest statistics from the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project report 49 drownings in the Great Lakes so far this year.
07/28/2017 – NBC 5 – ‘Stay Out of the Water’: Warning to Chicago-Area Beachgoers Extended
07/25/2017 – Ozaukee Press – Port Washington helps prepare beachgoers for possible emergencies with water safety cards
07/19/2017 – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – The Great Lakes are on track to see over 100 drownings this year, with half of those in Lake Michigan, said Dave Benjamin of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, a nonprofit group that collects data on drowning incidents. For the first time in five years, lifeguards are not on duty at Atwater Park beach due to a shortage of lifeguard applications received by the Milwaukee County Parks Department. Signs at the park advise visitors to swim at their own risk. But it is unclear if a lifeguard would have made a difference in Sareyi’s drowning. In the past, summer shifts for Atwater Park lifeguards were from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. And a lifeguard for the public beach would not have been able to see the break wall on private property from which Sareyi jumped, Tyke said.
07/19/2017 – South Bend Tribune – Paddle in awe of Great Lakes — in Michiana and up north – The nonprofit Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project reports 45 drownings in the Great Lakes so far this year. None of the victims wore life jackets. Granted, some fell from shore rather than a boat. But, out of the 582 drownings since 2010, only five wore life jackets — all of whom died because they were in really cold water for a prolonged time, says Bob Pratt, the project’s director of education. It doesn’t do you any good if your life jacket just sits in the boat. When you need it, Pratt says, it would be like trying to fasten your seatbelt during an accident. And on a stand-up paddle board, he says, attach the leash to your ankle, which helps you to retrieve the board after you fall off.
07/12/2017 – WCMU Public Radio – 2017 may be deadliest year on Great Lakes – – “It’s important to understand what drowning looks like for two reasons, one so you can spot someone who’s in dire need of flotation, and two if you ever find yourself struggling in water and doing the signs of frowning you stop doing the signs of drowning and flip, float and follow.”
07/09/2017 – WTMJ 4 — 414Ward – How to prevent drownings
07/03/2017 – UpNorthLive – Your Health Matters: Increase drowning awareness
07/03/2017 – NBC 5 – Man Dies Trying to Rescue His Nephew in Water Near 63rd Street Beach
06/30/2017 – MLIVE – East Grand Rapids working to prevent drowning with SwimEGR
06/30/2017 – Northwest Indiana Times – NWI surfers featured in film ‘Southend’
06/30/2017 – The Detroit News – Michigan Rescue: Reduce Drownings
06/28/2017 – WJR News Talk 760 a.m. – Dave Benjamin of the Great Lakes Surf Project talks to Paul W. Smith about the dangers of Lake Michigan rip [currents] tides. 6-28-17
06/25/2017 – Detroit Free Press – How even good swimmers are drowning in Lake Michigan
06/22/2017 – The Star Beacon – Conneaut Township Park offers life-saving gear at its popular beach
06/21/2017 – ABC 7 – Floating water park set to open on Lake Michigan in Whiting, Indiana — The $300,000 floating playground is a result of a joint venture between the city and the private company. The beach also plans to have kayak and paddleboard rentals. With the new attraction set to open this weekend, Bob Pratt and Dave Benjamin of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project spent the day teaching summer campers and kids about proper water safety.
06/21/2017 – NBC 5 Chicago – New Floating Water Park Emphasizes Safety in Indiana – Lake Michigan’s first floating water park will open in Whiting, IN this weekend, but there’s more than just fun to be had at the attraction, as educating the public about water safety is at the top of the agenda. NBC 5’s Regina Waldroup has the remarkable story.
06/19/2017 – WSBT 22 – Berrien County holding water rescue and emergency drill at Silver Beach – ST. JOSEPH, Mi. — It’s the time of year when thousands of you head to the beach. According to the Great Lakes Surf and Rescue Project, 2017 has been the deadliest year for the start to drowning season.
Lifeguards there are working hard to keep swimmers safe. Lifeguards say they need practice to make sure they can get you out of trouble.
They teamed up with the sheriff’s department, the Coast Guard, and EMS, all ready to save lives.
06/19/2017 – WZZM – VERIFY: Is Lake Michigan the deadliest Great Lake? Is Lake Michigan the deadliest Great Lake or just the most frequented?
We verified what is true using information from the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, a nonprofit that tracks drowning statistics and trains people in water safety, and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
Thirty people have drowned in the Great Lakes during 2017 and 16 of those incidents happened in Lake Michigan. Dave Benjamin from Great Lakes Rescue Project explained that their organization is confident in labeling Lake Michigan as the deadliest.
He said they attribute this to the accessibility (beach access), population density in surrounding cities and the lake’s configuration (strong currents). Lake Michigan is only the third largest Great Lake but it is surrounded by densely populated cities, like Chicago.
Don Olson from the DNR said that the most visited parks are along Lake Michigan, and that state parks surrounding other Great Lakes have less visitors. We can verify that Lake Michigan is the most frequented of the Great Lakes and because of that it is also the deadliest.
06/18/2017 – ABC 57 – Michigan Lake named deadliest Great Lake – Over half of the drownings in the Great Lakes so far this year have occurred in Lake Michigan. This is Michigan Lake’s highest death count this time of year since 2012.
06/17/2017 – UpNorthLive – Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore hosts first water safety expo It’s important to know the basics of water safety when out on the beaches this summer.
To help educate the public, the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore hosted the first Water Adventure Expo on Saturday.
The expo event was inspired by, Tyler Spink. In September 2016, Tyler, 21, went kayaking without a life jacket in Lake Michigan and never returned.
06/11/2017 – WLNS 6 – Staying safe around water as summer approaches — “It’s shaping up to be a very hot summer and unfortunately that means that we’ll have an increase in the number of drownings,” says Bob Pratt, Director of Education at Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.
Pratt says, more than 20 people in Michigan have died after drowning this year alone. Those numbers are being updated almost daily.
“The cold water plays a part, the wind and waves cause a part, so unfortunately it turns out to be a tragic situation,” says Pratt.
Pratt says, drowning is the leading cause of accidental deaths in children ranging in age from 1 to 4. And although it’s portrayed on television as a dramatic, long lasting incident, Pratt says, drowning can happen in the blink of an eye.
“While there may be a little bit of splashing, lifeguards call it climbing the ladder, it will be this vertical motion of just trying to keep their head above the surface of the water, and especially with children it may only last a matter of second,” says Pratt.
He says, there are a few simple steps you can take to protect yourself and those around, while still having fun in the sun.
For example, you can designate a “water watcher,” who will keep an eye on children at all times while in the water. Also making sure everyone is wearing a life vest.
“Of the 562 fatal drownings that we’ve reported since 2010, only 5 of them were wearing life jackets… That’s less than 1%,” says Pratt.
It’s called a life jacket, for a reason. Pratt says, wearing one can decrease your risk of drowning. He says it all boils down to this, respect the water and understand you need to be prepared for it.
06/11/2017 – Lansing State Journal – Bob Pratt, the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project’s director, told the State Journal the Lansing man was 27 years old. The man’s death, Pratt said, marks the 560th fatal drowning on the Great Lakes since 2010.
Pratt said nearly half of all drowning deaths take place on Lake Michigan, a powerful body of water that’s often underestimated.
“It’s really more of an inland sea than just a lake,” Pratt said. “It has currents; it has waves; it has wind.”
06/11/2017 – CBS Chicago – At least three people drowned in Lake Michigan this weekend, including a woman pulled from the water near Loyola Beach on Saturday, prompting a warning about the dangers of swimming when the water is still dangerously cold.
While the weather hasn’t been really warm until recently, that hasn’t stopped people from going into the lake, oftentimes unprepared.
Dave Benjamin, executive director of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, said at least 16 people have drowned in Lake Michigan so far this year, more than all the other Great Lakes combined.
Benjamin said 46 people drowned in Lake Michigan last year, one of the worst years for the lake since the group started tracking drownings in 2010. With swimming season just getting started, this year could match that total.
“Right now, we are on a record pace to match last year,” he said.
06/11/2017 – PR – Drownings continue to rise — Lake Michigan leading the statistics — Hot weekend, strong south winds can cause hazards — Especially with beach toys — GREAT LAKES, USA – The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project (GLSRP) announces its current drowning statistics. In 2017, the GLSRP is tracking 25 Great Lakes drownings.
06/08/2017 – Michigan Radio NPR – Holland tries new approach to warn people about dangerous lake conditions — The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project reports that 98 people drowned in the Great Lakes last year, the most since 2012. Currents caused by wind or structures like piers can make swimming in the lakes dangerous.
06/07/2017 – UpNorthLive – Benzie County nurse, Barbara Smith, recognized as hometown health hero — She was awarded for her water safety advocacy efforts at the State Capitol during public health week in April.
06/05/2017 – Fox News Chicago – Whiting Open Water Surf Lifeguard In-service Training.
06/06/2017 – ABC 57 – Training session for Lake Michigan lifeguards – Lake Michigan lifeguards participated in an “open water surf lifeguard” training session Tuesday, June 6th in Michigan City. The training focused on the dangerous currents in the Great Lakes, rescue techniques, and CPR.
“Water safety is really important, since 2010 there’s been 559 fatal drownings on the five Great Lakes, typically almost half, 47%, happened on Lake Michigan and about half of those happen here at the south end of Lake Michigan so this is one of the most dangerous waters in the country,” said Director of Education for Great Lakes surf rescue project, Bob Pratt.
The training was led by the Great Lakes surf rescue project and the purpose of the training was to prevent deaths on the lake this summer. 2016 was the deadliest year on the lake.
06/07/2017 – Northwest Indiana Times – Training to combat drowning in the Region – Here in Northwest Indiana, drowning is always top of mind for lifeguards, especially those who trained on Tuesday morning at Washington Park beach in Michigan City, and on Monday at Whihala Beach in Whiting, as part of the Open Water Surf Lifeguard In-Service Training Program. The training was conducted by the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.
“There is a huge difference between pool and open water training. In a pool you have 100 percent visibility, warm water, consistent water depths and [the pool is a contained area]. In open water surf there are winds, waves, dangerous currents, drop-offs and holes, temperature fluctuations of 10 to 20 degrees in pockets, and thousands of people coming and going,” he said.
Using rescue boards, rescue cans, and rescue tubes, some 36 area lifeguards participated in [Monday and] Tuesday’s training.
Mo Hakim, one of the head lifeguards at Washington Park, realized the dangers of Lake Michigan firsthand last summer when he rescued a victim who dived off of the pier, even though this is forbidden. “Many deaths in the Great Lakes happen off of these structures,” he said, pointing to the pier, “and last summer was probably one of the roughest in a few years. I pulled a kid out who was under for 10 minutes. I dove down and got him off of the bottom of the lake, got him on a Coast Guard boat, and we transported him, and he’s alive today.” He said he hopes that this summer will be safer as people become educated to the dangers of Lake Michigan and Tuesday’s training helps lifeguard teams to properly respond.
Jacob Breault, a rookie lifeguard with Indiana Dunes State Park, says the training will no doubt help him this summer. “This is a lot different than a pool. You get the experience of a real rescue on wavy days,” he said.
06/07/2017 – Northwest Indiana Times – Gallery: Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project lifeguard training
06/06/2017 – MLIVE – 5 Lake Michigan beaches could have dangerous conditions today — There have been 20 drownings in the Great Lakes already this year, including 12 deaths in Lake Michigan, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project tracker.
06/06/2017 – ABC 7 – Lake Michigan beach hazard warning, swim advisory in effect Tuesday — “With a possibility of a closure on Wednesday, or maybe yellow flags on Wednesday, which means people allowed in the water up to a certain depth,” said Nick Kalwinski, Whihala Beach supervisor. There have been 20 drownings in the Great Lakes so far this year. Ten of those were in Lake Michigan.
06/05/2017 – ABC 7 – Weather service warns of high waves at Chicago beaches — It was training day for lifeguards at Whihala Beach in Whiting, Ind., where the strong winds and choppy waters actually created the ideal conditions for water safety education.
In addition to getting in the water, the lifeguards-in-training learned about the risk of drowning. David Benjamin with the Great Lakes Rescue Project, said drowning is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S.
Already in 2017 there have been 20 drownings in the Great Lakes, and 10 of those were in Lake Michigan.”On average, half of all Great Lakes drownings happen in Lake Michigan, and then half of Lake Michigan drownings happen in the south end of Lake Michigan,” Benjamin said.
Keeping in mind three simple steps if you find yourself in dangerous water can be a life saver. Just remember: Flip, float and follow.
“You flip on your back and you float – float to keep your head above water, float to conserve your energy, and float to calm yourself down from the fear and panic of drowning – and then follow the safest path out of the water. According to Benjamin, 66 percent of all drowning victims are good swimmers.
06/05/2017 – Lakeshore Public Radio – Don’t become another drowning statistic
06/03/2017 – The News Dispatch – In brief – Lake Michigan lifeguards to participate in MC training — Indiana Lake Michigan Lifeguards will be participating in one of these two Open Water Surf Lifeguard In-Service training sessions, Monday in Whiting, Indiana, or Tuesday in Michigan City.
The in-service training will focus on the worldwide drowning epidemic, how it relates to the Great Lakes region, Great Lakes dangerous currents, open water surf rescue techniques, and the latest water resuscitation CPR techniques (i.e. it will explain why Compression Only CPR is inappropriate for drowning victims).
The project is being headed by the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, with Lifeguards out of Whiting, Chesterton, and Michigan City. It is sponsored by ArcelorMittal.
The Michigan City training will be held 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at North Point Pavilion, 6 On the Lake, Michigan City.
06/02/2017 – Holland Sentinel – City of Holland warns against swimming on red flag days at state beaches – Lake Michigan is the deadliest of the Great Lakes, causing nearly half of all Great Lakes fatalities in 2016. Forty-six people died on Lake Michigan last year, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.
06/01/2017 – Wood TV – Holland groups create red flag video aimed at curbing drownings – A record number of drownings were recorded in the Great Lakes last year, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. The group says this year, there have been 20 possible drownings so far.
05/30/2017 – My North – Splash into Summer at the Sleeping Bear Dunes Water Adventure Expo
05/29/2017 – Chicago Tribune – Lake Michigan brings both beauty and danger to summer season – Benjamin and Pratt partnered with city officials, lifeguards and sponsor ArcelorMittal to host the event, which offered lessons similar to those the pair present to audiences all around the Great Lakes region.
05/27/2017 – Pantagraph – Don’t blame Darwin, says anti-drowning project leader — A director of a group working to prevent drowning in the Great Lakes area says stigmatizing drowning hampers such efforts. “People blame the victim, blame the parent or caretaker or blame Darwinism,” said Dave Benjamin, executive director of public relations and project management for the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. But doing that gives people a false sense of security that it wouldn’t happen to them or their loved ones, said Benjamin.
In fact, it can happen to anyone and it can happen quickly. Part of the problem, according to Benjamin, is that people don’t know what they don’t know. Few people know that swimming ability alone might not be enough in a water emergency, he said.
05/26/2017 – Marquette Mining Journal – Officials talk water safety ahead of summer season – – According to statistics gathered by the GLSRP, 98 people drowned in the Great Lakes in 2016 — a 78 percent increase over the previous year.
“It’s going to continue to be a leading cause of accidental death until we start to look at the bigger picture,” said Benjamin. “There’s a huge disconnect. Information is not being delivered effectively or efficiently to the public.”
According to the American Red Cross, 54 percent of Americans do not have the basic swimming abilities to save their own lives in a water emergency. That statistic is based on a controlled setting, such as a pool, said Benjamin. But when you add in wind, waves, dangerous currents and cold water temperatures, that percentage would likely be higher.
Like the widely known “stop, drop and roll” technique used when clothing catches fire, Benjamin said everyone should know “flip, float and follow.” “If you want to live, you have to stay at the surface of the water and continue breathing,” he said. “If you can’t survive the initial drowning experience, you’re not going to make it out.” If in a water emergency, swimmers should flip over onto their back, float to keep their head above water, calm themselves down and conserve energy, and then follow the current to assess which way it’s flowing. Then, either swim perpendicular to the flow until reaching safety, or continue floating and try to signal for help if too tired to swim.
Benjamin and Bob Pratt, GLSRP’s executive director of education, are currently traveling throughout the Midwest to provide in-school presentations on water safety. They believe it’s the best approach to spreading information quickly, having completed more than 450 presentations in seven of the eight Great Lakes states. “They have fire drills, tornado drills, shooting drills and even earthquake drills in school,” said Benjamin. “But it’s more likely school-aged children will die from drowning. Why is there not water safety curriculum?”
With these presentations, as well as additional outreach, training, public awareness and preparedness efforts, GLSRP hopes to reduce the number of Great Lakes drownings. “It’s really simple. It’s not rocket science. It’s just bullet-pointed information that is not being delivered,” he said. “If people knew, they would be much safer and it would cause a huge decrease in drowning deaths.”
The stigma surrounding drowning, as well as the lack of industry-backing and scarce funding, also contribute to the epidemic, said Benjamin. “One of the main contributors is the stigma — when a drowning happens, from a public point of view, people blame the victim, blame the parents or blame it on Darwinism,” he said. “It gives the public a false sense of security that drowning wouldn’t happen to them, that it only happens to stupid people. It’s false. People think drowning happens to other people, until they become the other people.
05/26/2017 – Pantagraph – Experts urge safety on, near water – One problem is people don’t know what drowning looks like, says Dave Benjamin of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. It’s not like the movies, with a lot of splashing and yelling, he said. Instead, a person’s mouth might be barely above water level, with their head tilted back and body vertical, making ladder-climbing motions as they try to stay above water, explained Benjamin.
Benjamin said, “Learning how to swim isn’t enough.” Learning survival skills in a water emergency should start with children in school, he said. “’Flip-float-follow’ is the ‘stop-drop-and-roll’ of water safety,” said Benjamin, with the emphasis on float. He said people should flip to face up and float to control breathing, calm themselves and find an escape route to follow.
05/24/2017 – Tinley Junction – Tinley Park couple spreads water safety message in memory of son – Tinley Park residents John and Kathy Kocher, teaching water safety and giving back to their community is more than just a passion for them; it is their mission. The Kochers’ only child, Matt, drowned in Lake Michigan while at camp in 2013 at the age of 15, pulled from the shore by a rip current. That defining moment in the Kochers’ lives was the moment they knew they had to do something about water safety and drowning prevention, Kathy said.
05/17/2017 – Chicago Sun-Times – Balmy temps and frigid Lake Michigan a lethal mix — Tianna Hollinside, 13, and Juan Cornelio, 23, may have never known what hit them before they joined the ranks of Chicagoans who died too young.
But it wasn’t a bullet that killed them. It was cold water. Hollinside and Cornelio both drowned Tuesday in separate swimming accidents on Chicago’s north lakefront, lured to their deaths by balmy 80-degree-plus air temperatures that belied a fatally frigid Lake Michigan. Swimming may not even be the right word for what happened…
05/17/2017 – The News Dispatch – Staying safe in the Great Lakes – MICHIGAN CITY — “Ten people per day in the United States drown. Drowning is a huge, huge problem.” That was the sobering message Barker Middle School students received at the beach this week via Bob Pratt, the executive director of education for the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.
The Lake Michigan Water Safety Presentations were a collaboration between the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project the city of Michigan City, the Michigan City Fire Department and the Michigan City Parks and Recreation Department lifeguards.
05/17/2017 – PR – Memorial Water Safety Presentation or 2015 Lake Michigan Drowning Victim as Lake Michigan drownings are up 57% over 2016
05/16/2017 – PR – CRITICAL UPDATE: Great Lakes Drownings Increase; Water Safety Presentation Wednesday on the beach in Michigan City, Indiana.
05/15/2017 – ABC 57 – As summer nears, experts warn about dangers of Lake Michigan — Life-saving lessons along the lake shore. Last year there were 46 drownings in Lake Michigan plus 6 listed in Critical Condition. To date in 2017, there have been 9 drowning in Lake Michigan.
05/15/2017 – WSBT 22 – Students learn beach safety in Michigan City
05/14/2017 – PR – Michigan City Students Heading to the Beach this week for Lake Michigan Water Safety Presentations – The GLSRP is partnering with the City of Michigan City, the Michigan City Fire Department, and Michigan City Parks and Recreation Department lifeguards to perform Lake Michigan water safety presentations for Barker Middle School students.
05/11/2017 – Laporte County Life – City of Michigan City Shares Swimming Safety Tips – making their beaches SAFER!
05/07/2017 – PR – Lake Michigan Water Safety Presentation for Valparaiso Swim Club and the general public as Great Lakes drownings continue to rise in 2017
05/07/2017 – PR – National Lifesaver Award Winners Continue Efforts with Chicagoland Water Safety School Presentations this week – As Great Lakes drownings continue to rise in 2017
05/01/2017 – infoSuperior – Statistics Show Spike in Lake Superior Drownings — What if rescuers didn’t have to enter the water? Basically a remote controlled life ring, or drone, that could be kept at swimming beaches, on board vessels for man overboard situations or in emergancy response vehicles for cases involving potential drownings.
04/29/2017 – PR – Come on out today for a Lake Michigan Water Safety Presentation at the Green Gary – Earth Day Celebration – Lake Michigan Drownings were up 84% last year over 2015; Tracking 14 Great Lakes drownings in 2017
04/26/2017 – Liquid Adventuring – Drowning – It’s Not Just for Stupid People
04/23/2017 – Journal Sentinel – With Great Lakes drownings spiking, rescuers look to education, technology
04/19/2017 – Tinley Park Patch – Kocher’s Receive National Life Saving Award
04/19/2014 – CBS 2 Chicago – Lake Michigan Drownings Spike In 2016 – The number of drownings in Lake Michigan spiked 84 percent in 2016, compared with the previous year, according to a water safety advocacy group.
04/18/2017 – PR – Lake Michigan Drownings up 84% in 2016 over 2015; GLSRP presenting at the Great Lakes Water Safety Consortium’s “Great Lakes Water Safety Conference” Thursday and Friday, April 20 and 21, at the Maywood Environmental Park, 3615 Mueller Rd. in Sheboygan, WI.
04/14/2017 – PR – Tinley Park Parents Win National Drowning Prevention Alliance “Lifesaver of the Year” Award for water safety advocacy after son’s Lake Michigan drowning – Announces Illinois Water Safety School Presentations May 8 – 12.
04/04/2017 – Stand Up Paddle the World Radio – Bob Pratt is serious about drowning, very serious. As an EMT and Lifeguard, he knows that drowning is preventable, especially in the sport of Stand Up Paddle Boarding. In fact, Bob believes the stand up paddle industry has a golden opportunity to introduce life preserver and leash safety early on in this exploding sport. Bob Pratt and The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project are both very serious about water safety and drowning and give many lifesaving tips in the interview.
04/01/2017 – News Dispatch – Staying Safe in the Water – MICHIGAN CITY — Flip. Float. Follow. Those three words were heard throughout Michigan City Area Schools this past week with hopes that they will be remembered by area students as well as “Stop, drop and roll” has. “If you ask anyone anywhere in the United States, ‘What do you do if your clothes catch on fire?’ they will tell you, ‘Stop, drop and roll.’ But ask them ‘What do you do if you are drowning?’ and you’ll most often get silence and blank stares,” explained Dave Benjamin, executive director of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project (www.GLSPR.org).
03/28/2017 – WSBT – Lake Michigan drownings up 84% in 2016; 19 Great Lakes Water Safety presentations in 9 Michigan City schools this week
03/27/2017 – Northwest Indiana Times – Lake Michigan was deadliest Great Lake last year – Water Safety School Presentations this week in Michigan City
03/26/2017 – PR – Great Lakes Drownings up 78% Last Year over 2015; Water safety presentations this week for Michigan City
03/20/2017 – UpNorthLive – Increase in drownings brings high need for water safety education
03/19/2017 – PR – 2016 Great Lakes Drownings increased 78% over 2015; Water Safety School Presentations this week in Benzie County, MI
03/16/2017 – Record Eagle – Great Lakes Surf Rescue teaches safety to water-loving residents – If “stop, drop and roll” can be accepted parts of childhood education, why not “flip, float and follow?” asks the founder and executive director of Great Lakes Surf Rescue.
03/06/2017 – MSU & MI Sea Grant – How can we stop drownings in the Great Lakes? Water safety conference to address ways to improve safety, education and more – Learn why drownings in the Great Lakes were up 78 percent last year and what you can do about it. Join the Great Lakes Water Safety Consortium for compelling presentations by and networking opportunities with experts in water safety, risk communication, lifeguarding, beach safety, and hazard mitigation. Speakers from the Great Lakes Sea Grant Network, National Weather Service, Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, universities, and many others will share the latest science, techniques, and technologies. Upon completion of the conference, attendees will leave with new strategies, insights, and know-how to save lives in their communities and the best ways to respond in the event of a tragedy.
Register by March 20 for the early-bird rate of $49 ($59 after). Sponsorship opportunities are also available.
2012 GLSRP Media Mentions