SOUTH HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — Dive teams on Thursday found the body of an Ohio man who drowned in Lake Michigan in South Haven a day earlier.
Shortly after 1 p.m., a body was found about 50 yards west of the South Pier by the Allegan and Van Buren county dive teams, as well as South Haven Area Emergency Services.
He was identified by South Haven police as Anthony Paul Diehl, 33, of Beavercreek, Ohio, near Dayton.
Diehl went missing in the lake after trying to save a young boy who was struggling in the water. The boy, a 7-year-old from Texas, whose name has not been released, also drowned. His body washed up on shore Wednesday evening, according to the Van Buren County sheriff.
The drownings happened around 7:30 p.m. at North Beach. Police said a red flag was flying by the pier and a yellow flag was flying to the north. Witnesses told police that the conditions at the lake had “deteriorated rapidly before the incident.”
Officials have not said whether Diehl and the boy were related.
At least two other people drowned in West Michigan Wednesday. A 16-year-old, identified by school administrators as Mona Shores High School junior Ryan Leany, drowned in Lake Michigan at North Beach Park in Ferrysburg.
Leany was a member of the football team. The team paid tribute to Leany on Twitter with a picture of his jersey number. Superintendent Bill O’Brien wrote to students and families notifying them of Leany’s death.
“The loss of a student brings incredible heartache and sadness,” O’Brien wrote. “Please keep Ryan’s family, our students, and staff in your thoughts. As news like this hits everyone differently please know that we will have support in place for those that need it.”
One of Leany’s former football teammates told News 8 that Leany holds a place in his heart because he was kind to others and always in a good mood. The school’s head football coach also told News 8 that it’s been a hard 24 hours for their community.
The Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office said that on Wednesday night Leany was at North Beach Park with his church group and got swept away in the water. Crews found him but could not revive him.
Also Wednesday, the Grand Haven Department of Public safety said a 74-year-old Coopersville man drowned in the Grand River near Grand Isle Marina.
SELF-RESCUE STRATEGY: FLIP, FLOAT, FOLLOW
At North Beach Park, there are signs indicating no lifeguard is on duty and advising what to do if you’re caught in a rip current.
Bobby Pratt, the director of education with the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, has spent his life at the lake as a rescuer and water sports enthusiast. Meeting News 8 at North Beach Park in Ferrysburg Thursday, he said safety equipment should be required by law at public beaches.
“There’s no lifeguards here. There’s no rescue equipment down on the beach,” Pratt said.
He stressed the importance of life jackets. Too often, he said flotation devices like throwing rings are not close enough to the water and people who attempt a rescue are going in without a life jacket.
“We’ve tracked over 1,100 fatal drownings in the Great Lakes since 2010 and 13 of them were wearing life jackets,” Pratt said.
The group tracks drownings on the Great Lakes and is seeing an increase this year.
“This time of year, the drownings happen almost on a daily basis. I know we checked the Fourth of July; we were slightly above numbers that we’ve had in the past and we set a record a couple years ago and we’re beyond that,” Pratt said.
Through July 13, there have been 26 drownings on Lake Michigan, which is the highest figure for the same period in recent years. Lake Michigan has been the deadliest this year, with twice as many drownings as any other Great Lake.
“We don’t think the lake is ever safe enough to just go without really thinking about it,” Pratt said. “Even on days where there are calm waves, there might be offshore winds.”
If you’re caught in a rip current, experts say you should try to swim parallel to shore, going around the current and not directly back to the shore. The Great Lakes Rescue Project suggests using the ‘flip, float, follow’ strategy.
“Flip over onto your back, which allows you to breathe whenever you want to. Float to calm yourself down, float to conserve your energy, float to notice am I being pulled by a current and it’s in a particular direction, and then follow means to get a path back to safety where you’re not fighting against the current,” Pratt explained.
*Correction: A previous version of this article included an incorrect spelling of the South Haven fire chief’s name. We regret the error, which has been fixed.
—News 8’s Byron Tollefson and Rachel Van Gilder contributed to this report.