As beachgoers return, crews remind swimmers of water dangers

Van Buren County

SOUTH HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — With the arrival of hot summer days comes a reminder from officials about beach safety.

The warning comes after last year, which marked Lake Michigan’s deadliest year for drownings in a decade.

A total of 57 people drowned in Lake Michigan in 2020, according to data compiled by the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.

Several of the drownings took place along the West Michigan lakeshore, including four incidents in South Haven.

So far this year, things are off to a better start in South Haven.

Matthew Dey, a firefighter and beach flag attendant, said this was the first weekend people really started getting in the water.

“This is the most people I’ve seen in the water as the water starts to warm up a little bit,” Dey said.

As more people get in the water, Dey said to pay attention to the changing swim flags, saying even on a “green flag” day, things can quickly take a turn for the worst.

“It’s scary, people don’t pay attention to it,” he said. “They’re still out in the water swimming because it’s fun to swim in the big waves.”

Matthew Dey, a firefighter and beach flag attendant in South Haven on June 6, 2021.

This summer, South Haven beaches are implementing two new tools to help prevent a repeat of last year’s numbers, including a text alert service to notify beachgoers of changing water conditions along with rolling out new drone technology.

“We have a brand new drone that has a flotation device that we can fly over and it will drop into the water and it will pop over and blow up,” Dey said.

Experts say one of the best safety tips is to always stay alert and never underestimate the water you swim in.

“You have to respect the Great Lakes, not just Michigan, but all the Great Lakes because in a matter of seconds the water can change,” Dey said.

To enroll in the free text alert system for South Haven beaches, text the word “Beaches” to 888777.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Top Stories On WOODTV.com

Know something newsworthy? Report It!