Five Dead, Two Missing in Lake Michigan
ST. JOSEPH, Mich. (AP) _ The number of people confirmed dead in drownings along a three-mile stretch of Lake Michigan shoreline rose to five Sunday as officials recovered the body of a man who died while trying to save a 12-year-old boy.
Two others who disappeared in the lake’s choppy waters at the same time were still missing and presumed dead.
The swimmers got into trouble during a three-hour period after thunderstorms ripped across the lake and hit western Michigan’s Berrien County, kicking up waves and creating what the Coast Guard described as strong rip tides and an undercurrent.
``Weather is a key factor,″ Coast Guard Petty Officer Melissa Pese said in St. Joseph, about 15 miles north of the stretch of beach where the swimmers disappeared.
Leslie Schmidt said she could feel the water tugging at her Saturday as she waded at the edge of Lake Michigan at Warren Dunes State Park, where two men were killed and one was missing after trying to help a boy struggling in the water. The boy was rescued.
``There’s definitely a pull,″ Schmidt, of Geneva, Ill., told the South Bend (Ind.) Tribune.
No lifeguards are posted at Warren Dunes or other beaches in the area, but flags are posted to indicate degrees of danger.
Red flags flew on Friday and Saturday, indicating swimmers should stay out of the water. The sheriff’s department said warnings also were made over a public address system.
Conditions improved at Warren Dunes on Sunday, and yellow flags warned swimmers to use caution, park employees said.
Vickie Russell, who lives near Warren Dunes, said waves were high on Friday.
``We’ve never heard of this many drownings at one time,″ Russell told The Grand Rapids Press. ``They must have ignored the red flags and the undertow.″
One of the missing swimmers and two of the dead were among six people who had gone into the water at Warren Dunes to save a 12-year-old boy who was floundering in the waves.
Ismael Gonzalez, 22, and Roland Rodriquez, 15, both of Chicago, and one other would-be rescuer disappeared. Authorities recovered Gonzalez’s body Saturday and Rodriquez’s on Sunday. Still missing was Marcos Reynoso, 25, also of Chicago.
Another swimmer from Chicago was missing off Bethany Beach. Earlier, officials said a 57-year-old man and his 66-year-old wife drowned at Cherry Beach. At neighboring Harbert Beach, a 59-year-old man drowned several hundred feet off shore.