GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — A local restaurant will host a fundraiser on Friday to help cover the funeral expenses of an employee that drowned in Lake Michigan.
Jonathan Mendez, a 21-year-old from Wyoming, was swept away by a rip current Sunday while swimming near the Grand Haven shoreline.
“Jonathan is drowning and then we all just started yelling and panicking,” said his mom, Beatriz Hernandez. “That was hard. You see your son fighting for his life in the water and you can’t do anything about it.”
Two hours later, search crews pulled Mendez’s lifeless body from the water.
The family says Mendez was a strong swimmer, but that didn’t matter when faced with the rough conditions on the red flag day.
His mother is warning others to be cautious.
“No matter how good a swimmer you are, you can’t win against the water,” she said.
Mendez’s colleagues and customers are also grieving his death. Since he was 16, he worked as a cook at Tacos El Cuñado Bridge St. on Grand Rapids’ West Side.
The restaurant’s owner, Mary Martinez, said he made every day and every task enjoyable.
“(Making) tacos, quesadillas, he’s always dancing, he’s always smiling, he’s always happy,” Martinez said.
On Friday, Aug. 12, the restaurant will show its support for Mendez’s family by donating 100% of its proceeds to help cover his funeral expenses. Martinez said other local vendors have agreed to be part of the fundraiser by donating food and other goods to the restaurant.
More information about the event can be found at the Tacos El Cuñado Bridge St. Facebook page.
A GoFundMe has also been set up for Mendez’s family.