FERRYSBURG, Mich. (WOOD) - The search for a 47-year-old Walker man who went overboard in Lake Michigan is now considered a recovery effort, according to the Ottawa County Sheriff's Office.
John English went under the water three quarters of a mile offshore near N. Shore Road at North Beach Park, west of Ferrysburg. Crews searched in that area Sunday, as well as to the north because the current of the water is flowing that direction.
English is a medic with Life EMS and helps with Camp 911 -- a free safety education camp for kids focused on stranger danger and abduction prevention. He was interviewed June 19 on "24 Hour News 8 Daybreak" and explained how kids can escape from the trunk of a car.
The search for English resumed Monday morning. The U.S. Coast Guard used a helicopter and boats while dive crews were expected to use four sonar devices to search the lake, according to the Ottawa County Sheriff's Office. The search was expected to continue until sunset.
Two Life EMS employees and friends of English were still holding vigil in Grand Haven Monday morning. 24 Hour News 8 learned that they were volunteering their time and had offered to transport English when he is found.
English was on a 37-foot, white Sea Ray boat with friends, many of whom are medics, on an annual trip when the incident happened. The boat was headed from Muskegon to Grand Haven, according to the Ottawa County Sheriff's Office. The boat operator stopped the boat near North Beach Park and offered passengers the option to swim. English accepted that offer and got into the water.
Then the wind and current started pushing English and the boat apart.
"The boat separated from him pretty quickly, and he began to struggle in the water," said Sgt. John Wolffis with the Ottawa County Sheriff's Office. "They did try and throw ropes to him, boat cushions, etc., but he wasn't able to get back to the boat, and went under and hasn't been seen since."
The boat operator pushed a "man overboard" button, which sent a signal to the Coast Guard. Someone on the boat also called 911. That call came in around 4:10 p.m. Sunday, dispatchers said.
"I seen two boats come out. The first one was a sheriff. The second was a small Coast Guard," said Jeffery Flewellen, who was fishing on the pier Sunday afternoon. "And then shortly after, I seen a third boat come out, which was the second sheriff, and shortly after I seen a large Coast Guard boat go out and they were moving pretty quick."
Storm Team 8 said a buoycam near Port Sheldon showed northwest winds gusting at 17 mph around 4 p.m. Sunday. The air and water were both 69 degrees. Waves were 2.4 feet with a wave period of 3.5 seconds.
Wolffis reminded boaters to be prepared.
"Always have a life preserver close by if you are going to jump in," he said. "We know people are going to jump in without them, but have the necessary things there."
On Monday, the sheriff's office also said that they were using cell phone records to pinpoint the boat's location when English went under.
Monday afternoon, Mark Meijer, president of Life EMS Ambulance, issued a statement about English:
"The accidental drowning of our long time medic, educator and friend, John English, leaves us saddened beyond words. John served the West Michigan community 20 years as a passionate emergency services professional. John will be deeply missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with the English family."
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