Multi-agency response saves 28 people from dangerous wind-driven rip currents in Lake Michigan

9th Coast Guard District NewsCLEVELAND – The Officer in Charge of Coast Guard Station Holland, Mich., and numerous other local authorities saved at least 28 people from a dangerous wind-driven current next to the Holland Beach pier head Wednesday.

When Chief Petty Officer Mark Rose learned the weather conditions were ideal for dangerous current formation at Holland Beach Wednesday afternoon, he headed there to see for himself.

“There are plenty of signs posted all around the pier head and even in the water, warning folks to stay away from the rip current areas,” Rose said. “However, on a day like this when conditions are ideal and the weather is hot, I knew there were going to be people in trouble.”

The warm, sunny day drew large crowds of swimmers to the state beach there. Winds were gusting to 25 knots from the northwest and waves were about 4-to-6 feet. The rip current velocity was estimated to be 8-to-10 knots.

When Rose arrived at the beach at 2:45 p.m., there were already several people yelling for help and pointing toward the water. He grabbed a life ring, ran out onto the rocks and threw it toward a man and a woman who were being swept along the pier. The two were able to grab onto the life ring as Rose then pulled them to safety. After that, Coast Guardsman went on to save 12 more people. Local authorities from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Ottawa County Marine Patrol and many members of the public were also on scene conducting rescues and authorities estimate that together, at least 28 people were safely recovered from the water.

“Safely returning 28 people to their loved ones less than 24 hours before the Coast Guard celebrates our 221st birthday is a great feeling and truly highlights the type bravery and dedication Coast Guard men and women have been demonstrating on the Great Lakes since the service first established a presence on the lakes with the lighthouse at Presque Isle in 1819,” said Lt. Casey Steuer of the Sector Lake Michigan response department.

Several people ingested water and suffered minor lacerations and cuts caused by rocks along the pier. Four people were taken to a local hospital but are in stable condition.

The state beach has been shut down to all swimmers.

The Coast Guard recommends swimmers check conditions before swimming and always heed warning signs. Swimmers who find themselves stuck in a rip current, should not fight the current and instead swim out of the current, then to shore. Those who can’t escape,should float or tread water while waving for assistance rather than exhausting themselves by attempting to swim against the current.

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