Dozens tried to help men who drowned in Lake Michigan

Ottawa County

GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — Three people remained in the hospital Monday after being pulled from Lake Michigan at Grand Haven State Park Sunday.

The Grand Haven Department of Public Safety confirmed all three were listed in stable condition.

Two men died Sunday after going under the water in Grand Haven. The first was 64-year-old David Knaffle of Wyoming, who was remembered Monday as a hardworking, Christian family man.

The other man killed was identified as 20-year-old Jeremiah Diaz of Lansing.

“My best friend was gone,” Ayindee Pulliam, a close friend of Diaz, told Lansing NBC affiliate WILX Monday. “There is just a whole part of me that is not there anymore.”

Diaz’s father told WILX that the family is grateful for the human chains that formed, trying to help his son.

“He was all about rescuing (and) helping people,” Joshua Diaz said. “He would appreciate their efforts.”

MASSIVE RESCUE EFFORT

Ryan Fox was one of dozens of people who jumped into action to help Sunday.

He was at home when the water rescues began.

“You hear that many sirens coming this direction, I just knew. I could feel it,” Fox said.

Fox knew the waves were wild Sunday — between 3 and 5 feet — so he headed to the beach. He also knows the pain of loss. His brother, Andy, drowned at the beach in Grand Haven in 2003. Since then, his family has been promoting water safety.

“I don’t want people to go through what we’ve gone through as far as losing a loved one,” he told 24 Hour News 8 Monday.

Fox put his knowledge of rip currents to work when he arrived at Grand Haven State Park Sunday to find rescues underway.

“It was like a complete flashback of seeing the human chains in the water, the helicopter, all the boats,” Fox said.

Fox said even though he was wearing a life vest, he was exhausted when the rescues ended.

He urged everyone to stay out the water when red flags are flying, as they were yesterday. He said the deaths are a tragic example of what happens when the warnings are ignored.

DNR LOOKS AT SAFETY

Ron Olson, the chief of Parks and Recreation at the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, said lifeguards at the state park likely could not have stopped the deaths. The rip currents, wind and waves posed too big an obstacle.

“It would’ve been impossible for any single person,” Olson told 24 Hour News 8 over the phone, pointing out that even the groups of people who formed the human chains still couldn’t save Knaffle or Diaz.

Some people said they didn’t see the red flags waving. Others wondered why people weren’t forced out of the water.

“This is something that we’ve reviewed before. We’re debriefing tomorrow and we’re going to talk about that,” Olson said. “Right now, it’s not illegal if people don’t heed the warnings and go in.

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