Millions are drawn to the waters edge by mesmerizing winds and waves, but sometimes we go too far. Thursday night was a prime example with multiple incidents along the Lake Michigan shoreline from New Buffalo to St. Joseph, including at least two reported drownings and several rescues.
The first incident reported was from the municipal beach at New Buffalo when the Coast Guard and other authorities were called out on the report of a missing swimmer around 7:30pm. Searchers using both a helicopter and watercraft were searching along the shoreline and at the New Buffalo harbor entrance break wall. Authorities have yet to report the final outcome of that incident.
UPDATE ON NEW BUFFALO INCIDENT:
Today, Friday July 31st, the Berrien County Sheriff’s Office Marine Unit and Dive Team along with the Lake Township Fire Department and Great Lakes Drone Company resumed the search for the 13 year old female. At approximately 12:36 pm Chikaming Township Police Department received information of a body that had washed up on the shoreline near Pier Street Beach in Lakeside, Michigan. Responding Officers were able to confirm that was the missing 13 year old female from Warren Dunes State Park. Chikaming Township Fire Department authorities were able to recover the body with the assistance of the Lake Township Fire Department and the Berrien County Sheriff’s Office Marine Unit and Dive Team.
Less than 40-minutes later, last night, the St. Joseph Department of Public Safety was alerted to several people in trouble in the Lake Michigan waters off of Lions Park Beach.
Upon arrival at Lions Park, police found four individuals were struggling in the water. Department Director Steve Nuebecker says that Fabian Weber was on a surfboard and was able to rescue Meghan Lynch and Vincent Ball by pulling them onto his surfboard.
A 44-year-old Lakeville, Indiana man also attempted to save his two children aged 17 and 12 who were also struggling in the water off Lions Park Beach after they got caught in an undertow. Both the 17 year old and the 12-year-old were rescued by St. Joseph Reserve Officer Everett Gaston, however, the 44-year-old man drowned while trying to save his children. He was pronounced dead at Spectrum Health Lakeland in St. Joseph. His name is not being released until family and relatives are notified.
St. Joseph officers were assisted by the Berrien County Sheriff Department, the US Coast Guard, St. Joseph Township Police, and Medic 1 Ambulance.
Not long after those incidents in St. Joseph were resolved, authorities were called to Warren Dunes State Park where a 13-year old girl was last seen in the waters of Lake Michigan and feared drowned. Berrien County Undersheriff Chuck Heit reports that the search which began around 9pm ended up being called off due to darkness with plans to resume the search early this morning.
Authorities continue to caution everyone to treat the lake with great respect, to observe the safety rules, let everyone know where you’re going to be and not to swim alone, especially if you are not an accomplished swimmer. Conditions on the lake can change very rapidly, and undertows can catch you when you least expect them.