SOUTH HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) - A lawsuit filed by the family of a Lake Michigan drowning victim raises the question: How far must a city go to protect the public?
The family of Martin Jordan, 45, of Saint Charles, Ill., sued the city of South Haven, claiming it was to blame for his drowning death in a rip current in August 2009.
Jordan was swimming with his 10-year-old son, a nephew and three nieces off South Beach, not far from the pier, when they were caught in a rip current. He rescued the five children, but didn't have the strength to save himself, according to the lawsuit.
Jordan, who was a child social worker, was a father of three whose wife was expecting their fourth child. The family is seeking more than $25,000.
The suit, filed in Van Buren County Circuit Court, claims the city should have done more to protect him.
"Had the beach been closed or the family been warned about the dangers the water conditions presented to children, the five children would not have gone swimming and Marty would not have drowned saving their lives," according to the suit.
He died despite rescue attempts by South Haven police officers -- two of whom nearly drowned.
"The power of the water was very great that day and in trying to respond to this situation, they questioned their own safety," City Manager Brian Dissette said of the officers.
The lawsuit claims that South Haven should have closed the beach after the National Weather Service had posted rip current warnings and after 2 rescues earlier in the day.
It says Jordan and his family were not aware of the earlier rescues or the potential danger, despite walking past the posted warning signs.
Dissette, the city manager, is one of the defendants named in the suit.
He says South Haven does what it can to protect swimmers -- including posting rip current hazards on its website and providing rescue training for officers.
"We do have signs in place. We do have life rings and throw bags mounted on the piers," he said.
He said he can't think of anything more the city could do.
"Unfortunately this is something we see, as a variety of lakeshore communities do, when you have thousands of people in the water on an annual basis," Dissette said.
He said the public should play a role in protecting itself.
"As the public enters the water, we do our very best to respond to their needs," he said. "However, we also think it's important that they educate themselves on what they should expect when entering the water."
The rink will be open that day from 3-9 p.m.
Bethany Murk, 48, was arrested Thursday following a drug bust in Van Buren County.
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