SAUGATUCK, Mich. (WOOD) — A Good Samaritan who helped rescue a 78-year-old woman from Lake Michigan said it wasn’t like what you see in the movies.
There was no thrashing or yelling. Instead, it happened silently and in a matter of seconds.
“We saw her face down and at first I was like, ‘OK she’s doing a front float,'” Robyn Sietsema said. “Then I noticed her back was kind of hunched and that’s when I was like, ‘There’s an issue.'”
The incident happened Tuesday afternoon at Oval Beach in Saugatuck.
Sietsema and another bystander were able to pull the woman to shore, where other beachgoers administered CPR until paramedics arrived on scene.
Water rescue experts say signs of drowning are much more subtle than people think.
“You typically think of this super dramatic movie reenactment of what you’ve seen, maybe in ‘Baywatch,'” said Madeline Dryer, the aquatics director at Grand Rapids Community College. “They’re not waving their arms around and most of the time people don’t have the ability to even call out for help because they’re more worried about continuing to take in breaths.”
There’s also your own safety to consider.
“You need to be really careful because they could easily grab onto you and takeover and you could also start to drown too,” Dryer said.
Sietsema said the water was shallow enough where she felt safe going in.
“I just see it as something anyone would do put in that situation,” she said.
If it’s too dangerous to go in, experts say there are several ways to help from a far. Some examples include calling 911, throwing out a flotation device to the person struggling and getting the attention of others.
“Just yelling, being like ‘Does anyone else see this person?'” Dyer said. “Making sure that multiple people have eyes on this victim, because it’s just as easily that a wave could come and you could lose sight of them, but if somebody has a different angle and then they’re able to see.”
The Allegan County Sheriff’s Office said the woman rescued Tuesday was transported to the hospital for further medical treatment. News 8 reached out for an update on her condition but didn’t hear back.