SOUTH HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — Two people who were pulled from Lake Michigan in South Haven on Monday have died, police say.
Around 12:40 p.m., first responders were dispatched to the lake for two possible drownings, the South Haven Area Emergency Services said in a release.
Bystanders pulled two people out of the water, SHAES said. It said they were both unresponsive. First responders rendered care at the beach and then brought the two people to a local hospital.
“They were out swimming and bystanders noticed that they were unresponsive, went in and one of the victims was pulled in. The other victim was noticed as well,” Brandon Hinz with SHAES said.
The South Haven Police Department said the two people, a 22-year-old man from Novi and a 21-year-old woman from Columbus, both died.
Police are not yet releasing their names.
“Our thoughts and condolences are with both families,” SHPD said in a release.
According to the city’s website, a yellow flag was flying at South Beach, meaning there was moderate surf and currents. Swimmers were advised to use caution when entering the water. Red flags were raised later in the day.
Emergency crews say conditions can change quickly.
“They were yellow flag at the time and still remained yellow flag for about an hour and the as the conditions started building we updated them to red flags,” Hinz said.
Not long after the red flags were put up, police were called back to tell people to get out of the water. South Haven officers can now issue a $1,000 dollar fine for people swimming in these conditions, after a new ordinance went into effect earlier this year.
Ralph Meyer, a South Haven resident who was visiting the beach on Monday, said he called police because people were ignoring the flags and he was worried someone else would get hurt.
“There are going to be those that choose to ignore it and as you’re well aware there is a fine if you refuse to get out of the water and stay out,” Meyer said. “But the whole thing has got to be education. The people have to notice the flags when they get to the beaches. Understand what they mean.”
To the north in Grand Haven, crews at the state park put out a double red flag warning on Monday. The new double red flags indicates that water access is closed due to hazardous conditions.
On Sunday, 21-year-old Jonathan Mendez from Wyoming drowned at Grand Haven State Park. A Coast Guard helicopter eventually found his body.
The Department of Natural Resources said the updated system seems to be helping but conditions can quickly change and they can’t prevent every tragedy.
“One of the things that we discovered on ocean beaches (is) that they do have a double flagging system there that they used,” Rick Olson, the chief of Parks and Recreation for the DNR, said. “We decided that that would be a way to make it clear, because we had people confused when we flew the red flag that recommended not going in the water.”
Starting this year at all state parks on the Great Lakes, a $500 fine can be issued to people violating a double red flag. The DNR said people have responded to warmings and they haven’t had to give out fines just yet.
— News 8’s Madalyn Buursma and Michael Oszust contributed to this report.