GRAND HAVEN, Mich. — Search crews are expected to return to Lake Michigan at Grand Haven State Park on Tuesday, the third day in a row, to continue searching for a 14-year-old boy missing in the water.
The 14-year-old Grand Rapids boy, presumed drowned, was last seen just outside the area 3 swim buoys near the south pier, according to the Grand Haven Department of Public Safety. He was reported missing just before 4 p.m. Sunday.
"We are trying to do everything we can to bring closure to this family and investigate this to the extent that we have," said Capt. John Wolffis of the Ottawa County Sheriff's Office.
Rescue teams from Muskegon County and the Michigan State Police assisted the county marine unit in dives throughout the day. Visibility remains an issue due to high waves and wind direction, Wolffis said.
"The only time you have really good visibility is when you have an east wind because anything from the west is going to churn up the sand," he said. "We did find a couple targets with our SONAR that we were able to put divers on [that] turned out to be a piece of wood."
Family and friends of the missing boy watched the search from a motorhome on the beach lot. A local couple, Jennifer and Tom Williams, lent them the vehicle, so the family won't have to drive from Grand Rapids if the effort lasts days.
"I wouldn't want to leave the lake," said Tom Williams. "Just give them a place to stay. Regardless, it's not easy for them, but we all chip in for as much as we can do."
Other community members provided food and drinks for the family. It's an incredible response, Wolffis said.
In reaction to Sunday's presumed drowning, the 21st on Lake Michigan this year, the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project is continuing its call for parks to staff beaches with lifeguards.
Director Dave Benjamin said lifeguards could likely have prevented drownings which occurred in Holland, Grand Haven and South Haven this year.
"Lifeguards save lives. Lifeguards are the first responders on the beach...Four lives right here that could still be alive if there were lifeguards in place," Benjamin said.
He adds that the amount of money used in recovery missions like this week's in Grand Haven could be better allocated to lifeguard programs, which the group feels would better prevent against drowning in the first place.
"On average, a Coast Guard helicopter is around $16,000 an hour, a rescue boat is about $4,000 an hour. So that’s $100,000 right there for last night. That could have been used to fund a lifeguard program for the entire summer.
GLSRP also stated that response time is vital to ensuring a rescue, noting the process of drowning happens within minutes:
- Less than one minute of struggling in the water, a drowning person will submerge.
- Around three minutes of submersion the heart stops.
- Around four minutes of submersion irreversible brain damage begins.
Benjamin said if an individual is recovered from the water less than ten minutes of being submerged, given proper rescue breaths and CPR, the survival rate is around 94 percent. After an individual is submerged in water for about 10 or more minutes, the survival rate drops to around 14 percent.
Benjamin said a lack of lifeguards also leaves bystanders vulnerable to the waves during a drowning if they try to help a victim out of the water. He spoke more specifically to instances like Sunday, where community members were helping search in the water.
"How are we are going to take to take hundreds of bystanders who have no water rescue experience and now put them in the water that we told them to stay out of. Would-be rescuers often become drowning victims without ever making contact with the victim," he said.
13 ON YOUR SIDE reached out to the Michigan DNR, which manages Grand Haven State Park, over lifeguard program at its beaches, but have not yet received a statement.
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