Coast Guard Auxiliary members help in rescue of 7 from rip currents in Lake Michigan

Great Lakes Coast Guard NewsHOLLAND, Mich. — Members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary rescued seven swimmers in Lake Michigan, near the Holland State Park, who became caught in rip currents after they entered a no swim zone, Saturday evening.

After they arrived at 10:15 p.m., auxiliarists assigned to Coast Guard Station Holland, working on foot from the shore, assisted in rescuing five people caught in the rip current in the first hour and, within three hours, would go on to rescue two more.

Michigan Department of Natural Resources closed the area earlier in the day due to extreme rip currents and had already responded to more than 12 cases of people being caught in rip currents.

Coast Guard auxiliarists worked with Michigan DNR officers not only to rescue swimmers but also to warn swimmers of the steep drop and strong rip current in effect, by walking the area and informing potential swimmers.

The auxiliarists and Michigan DNR officers positioned themselves on the north pier, which had been closed to swimmers, and were able to throw life rings and heaving lines to the people in distress and pull them into an area where they could be hoisted out of the water safely.

Rip currents can be killers and the best way to avoid them is being able to spot them before you go into the water.  Rip currents form through heavy winds that cause rough waters, and when the current pushes the water away from shore, rip currents form.  The strongest currents can reach eight feet per second, which is much faster than a person can swim.

“It is imperative that people remain aware of their surroundings and the dangers that strong winds and large waves can create,” said Lt. Maria Wiener, public affairs officer at Coast Guard Sector Lake Michigan.

“Additionally, wearing a life jacket will greatly increase a person’s survivability.  If you have any doubt regarding your ability to swim, wear a life jacket, or do not go out.”

The Coast Guard offers these tips that swimmers should use to help them identify, avoid and escape rip currents:
  • Identify — Look for changes in water color; water motion; incoming wave shape or breaking point compared to adjacent conditions; channels of churning or choppy water; lines of foam, seaweed or debris moving seaward
  • Avoid — Check the latest National Weather Service forecast for local beach conditions before heading out; learn to swim; learn to swim in surf; never swim alone; swim near a lifeguard; look for posted signs and warning flags indicating hazards; check with lifeguards before swimming and obey their instructions; always assume rip currents are present; if in doubt, don’t go out
  • Escape — Remain calm to conserve energy; don’t fight the current; swim across the current parallel to the shoreline; when out of the current, swim an angle away from the current and toward shore; if you can’t escape, try to float or tread water until the current subsides then swim to shore; if you can’t reach shore, face the shore, wave your arms and yell for help to draw attention
  • Assist — Get help from a lifeguard or if one isn’t available, call 911; throw the victim something that floats – a lifejacket, cooler, ball; yell instructions to escape; don’t become a victim trying to help someone else

Click here to learn more about life jackets at the Coast Guard Boating Safety Resource Center.

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One Comment

  1. Ryan says:

    It should be said that one member was an auxiliarist and the other was a reservist. Job well done!