Bystanders throw life ring, jump in to save teen

Ottawa County

GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — Good Samaritans used recently added life rings at the Grand Haven pier to help save a teen’s life over the weekend, but they say more can be done to prevent drownings.

Mavrick Cotten visited Grand Haven State Park Saturday for the first time in about two years.

“It was just pretty hot out,” he told 24 Hour News 8 Monday, explaining why he made the trip.

While walking along the pier around 10 p.m., he heard panicked voices. In a moment, he spotted someone struggling in the water. Police told the Holland Sentinel it was a 17-year-old boy from Kent County.

“They were calling out for help and I heard a couple other people yelling for the life ring,” Cotten recalled.

He turned around and saw the life ring right behind him, so he jumped into action.

“I just happened to just turn around and it was right behind me so I was the first one to it, so I just grabbed it and just gave it the best throw I had,” he recalled.

But that best shot fell short of the teen. Cotten and bystanders struggled to untangle the rope attacked the life ring but couldn’t. Eventually, they just threw the whole thing in.

“I was kind of watching the victim go under water and I’m kind of like, this guy’s going to be done and no one’s going to be around him. So next thing I thought of was just jump in after him,” Cotten said.

Cotten’s a strong swimmer who knows his way around the water. He and cousin jumped in, using the life ring eventually to pull the limp, pale teen to safety.

“I’m right there and I don’t want to be the one that just walks away from it and says that’s not my job,” he said.

But he said more can be done to help people like him help those in trouble.

“When we just grabbed it off there, the rope was all just knotted up on there. So when we just pulled it off, it was like we don’t have time to try figuring out what end’s what and untie it, so it was just get it out there,” he said.

He thinks officials should hold free demonstrations on how to use the life rings so rescues can happen quickly.

Before summer started, the Grand Haven Department of Public Safety added 14 life rings to the pier and beach, and also installed zoning signs to help emergency responders get to victims faster. Police are working with the local rotary club to raise more money for safety equipment. They held a fundraiser last week.

Calls to DPS to find out more about the teen’s condition were not returned Monday.

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