Officials: Piers along Lake MI can pose risks

Ottawa County

GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — The search for the body of a teen swept into Lake Michigan has brought up an important conversation about pier safety.  

The incident took place Wednesday at Holland State Park, where  16-year-old Eliza Trainer from the Flint area was knocked off the north pier by a large wave. 

On Friday, the Ottawa County Dive Team and Marine Patrol searched for her body by boat with sonar technology. Searchers were unable to deploy dive teams in the recovery effort due to high winds and dangerous lake conditions. As of Friday night, her body still has not been discovered.

eliza trainer
An undated courtesy photo of Eliza Trainer.

Although every pier is different along the lakeshore, the Army Corps of Engineers oversees all of them.  

News 8 took a trip to the south pier in Grand Haven on Friday to learn more about pier safety by talking with authorities, locals and visitors about the risks and precautions.  

Grand Haven Public Safety Capt. Clint Holt has taken a special interest in pier safety and water rescues.  

He said many don’t realize the dangers piers pose, especially when faced with rising waters and inclement weather.  

“Any amount of water that comes over there up to six inches is enough to wash you off your feet, knock you down and potentially wash you into the lake,” Holt said.  

Holt said with the support of community partners, they have been able to get written permission from the Army Corps to add additional safety measures along the pier. 

“We got permission from the Corps to put life rings out there, and that’s to save lives,” he said. “We have camera systems out there as well so we can kind of keep an eye on what’s going on in the event of an emergency.”  

Even with these additional safety precautions, there are still hazards involved.  

“Are we going to be able to prohibit all deaths off those piers? No, because people are people, and they make poor decisions sometimes,” Holt said.

Holt said many people, especially visitors, don’t recognize that they are putting themselves in a potentially dangerous situation. 

More information about pier safety can be found online.

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