Man killed after being swept into Lake Michigan by wave

MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. (WLS) -- The body of a northern Indiana man swept into Lake Michigan by a huge wave Saturday night was found by Coast Guard divers Sunday morning.

Earl Helmuth, 24, of Nappanee, Indiana, was one of six people who went missing after he, his fiance, and two other couples were swept off of the Michigan City Lighthouse pier and into Lake Michigan.

Around 6:30 p.m. Saturday, the group of six was standing on the break wall at Trail Creek when witnesses say an 8-10 foot wave came over the wall and knocked them into the water.

Photographer Patrick Landers was at the pier taking pictures and captured images of the incident.

"I heard a woman screaming. At the same time, there was a lifeguard boat coming in towards the channel and these people were frantic," said witness Patrick Landers.

While three of them were able to get themselves out of the water, two others in the group, including a pregnant woman, had to be rescued by a U.S. Coast Guard crew that happened to be on patrol at the Washington Park Marina and Harbor area.

Unfortunately, they could not save Helmuth, who did not know how to swim.

"With nighttime it gets a lot harder to see, especially in dark clothing," said Matthew Stonequist, U.S. Coast Guard.

Police resumed their search early Sunday morning and divers with the Indiana Department of Natural Resource found Helmuth's body around 8 a.m. in about 12 feet of water near where he was last seen.

"We started to hear the helicopters going overheard, they were swing out back and forth," said beachgoer Kate Borgan.

Although authorities say there are signs on the pier warning of the danger, locals say there are no life rings or safety devices at the end of the pier.

"No one should be on that pier or that walkway when the weather was like that," said Michigan City resident Karen Mulroy. "Those waves were seven, eight feet tall. It's not safe."

Police say it is not uncommon for people to be knocked into the water by a huge wave and they say that other people over the years have died at the same location. Officials are now discussing ways to make the pier safer.
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