Despite red flags, some swim in Lake Michigan

Ottawa County

GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — Hundreds headed to the Lake Michigan shoreline Saturday afternoon in Grand Haven to enjoy some time at the beach during the Coast Guard Festival.

They were greeted by red flags flying, but that didn’t stop some from swimming anyway.

Sgt. Eric Westveer, who heads up the Marine Division of the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office, warns that ignoring the red flag warning has proven to be a fatal mistake in the past.

“We strongly urge you to pay attention to those flags and if it is red, do not enter that water,” Westveer said. “It’s not something we can enforce, but it’s deemed unsafe at that time.”

At the state park, folks crowded the sand to get a look at the waves fueled by southern wind, forcing the water over the pier head, the boardwalk, flooding the path and making things slick for those taking it all in.

Ryan Krygier has been camping at the state park for over 30 years. On a day like Saturday, he won’t get near the water. He’s seen tragedy strike too many times before.

“I’ve seen plenty of situations where people shouldn’t have been out there, and if they wouldn’t have been out there when they shouldn’t have been out there, what happened, wouldn’t have happened,” Krygier said. “It’s simple — I think what we’re saying here is respect it. Heed the warnings.”

Warnings that some still refuse to heed.

A photo of a red flag at Grand Haven.

Tom Coutchie was closely watching his granddaughter swim in the water. He says it’s important for kids to have fun.

“I make sure they don’t go out too far. I know there are rip currents but, she stays in up to her waist,” Coutchie said. “I think she’ll be fine.”

The rough seas slammed one of West Michigan’s most popular beaches during one of the area’s busiest festivals.

Krygier loves the Coast Guard Festival but admits there’s plenty to do in Grand Haven away from the water.

“You can enjoy Grand Haven without going in the water. There’s a lot of Grand Haven that people need to see,” Krygier said. “But when a red flag is flying, you should not be in the water.”

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