Lake Michigan drownings leave 2 dead, 2 critical Father's Day weekend; beach hazard to be issued

One of the victims is a 9-year-old girl who has died after drowning at Zoo Beach in Racine, Wisconsin

ByMichelle Gallardo and ABc7 Chicago Digital Team WLS logo
Monday, June 21, 2021
Lake Michigan drownings leave 2 dead, 2 critical over Father's Day weekend
So far this year, there have been more than 30 drownings in the Great Lakes, with 13 of those in Lake Michigan, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Two people have died, including a 9-year-old girl, after drowning in Lake Michigan over Father's Day weekend. Two others, also another young girl, are in critical condition, all from separate incidents, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.

With no lifeguard on duty and signs that warn "swim with caution," the weekend's latest drowning marks the third in the last week at Michigan City's Washington Beach in Indiana.

A 14-year-old girl from Dayton, Ohio was airlifted to South Bend in critical condition Sunday after was pulled from Lake Michigan.

"There was a 14-year-old juvenile that was with a group of friends walking out into the water. Somehow, it sounds like a wave struck them and they ended up going into some deeper water and getting into problems," said Indiana Conservation Officer Alex Neel with the Department of Natural Resources.

Officials received reports of several people actively struggling in the water around 1 p.m. Sunday. When they arrived, they were able to rescue several juveniles from the water, however, they quickly confirmed that the teen was still missing and a search was immediately conducted, officials said.

About 10 minutes later, a jet-ski operator spotted the girl under the surface of the water and alerted a nearby divers from the Michgian City Fire Department.

Rescuers were able to stabilizer her condition before she was transported by helicopter to South Bend Memorial Hospital for further treatment.

The circumstances are nearly identical to another drowning at the same beach Saturday night, where a young girl was also swept underwater by a strong wave while out with friends, however, she did not survive.

RELATED: Portage man drowns while rescuing girlfriend from Lake Michigan in Indiana

"There were a lot of people on the beach and in the water," said Dave Benjamin with the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.

Emergency crews were called out to Washington Park Beach around 9 p.m. Saturday after three family members, including juvenile girl, were hit by a big wave and pulled into deeper water.

Nearby good Samaritans were able to rescue two of the swimmers, but the young girl never resurfaced, officials said. The body of the missing swimmer was located by the Michigan City Fire Department Divers about an hour later. She was transported to a local hospital where she was pronounced dead.

The executive director of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project Dave Benjamin tells us Michigan City currently has four lifeguards only. None of whom are actually working the towers.

"They said they had a low turnout of applicants, as well as a low turn out of qualified applicants from the ones that they did have," Benjamin said. "We need a huge recruiting process to get lifeguards on this beach."

RELATED: Group highlights dangers of swimming in Lake Michigan

The beach is a dangerous one. Like all beaches on the southern shore of Lake Michiga, the sand floor is littered with steep drop offs, and that is before taking into account the rip currents that often form there.

"On this side of the shore, it doesn't matter how good of a swimmer you are if you get caught in a rip current and you're not too sure what to do. It could cause trouble," Officer Neel said.

Swimmers are now being cautioned to stay out of the water the Michgian City beach Monday. A beach hazard statement will go into effect at 7 a.m., according to officials.

The National Weather Service said life threatening swimming conditions will be present with wave heights up to six feet expected.

Racine, Wisconsin Drownings

The 9-year-old girl was pulled from Zoo Beach in Racine, Wisconsin around 6:30 p.m. Saturday.

Around the same time, rescue crews also found 17-year-old boy about 200 yards from the shore at North Beach in Racine. The teen was taken to an area hospital where he was last listed in critical condition, according to GLSRP.

With hot weather back and Chicago beaches open, it's important to observe water safety and remember swiming in Lake MIchigan can be dangerous indeed.

So far this year, there have been more than 30 drownings in the Great Lakes, according to the GLSRP, with 13 of those in Lake Michigan. In 2020 , there were 108 total drownings in the Great Lakes, with 56 of those in Lake Michigan, making it the deadliest year on record, according to GLSRP data.

Four Lake Michigan Water Safety Tips experts want you to know:

-Always swim near a lifeguard

-Swim during lifeguarded hours

-Know the signs of drowning

-Know the Flip, Float and Follow drowning survival strategy.