Riptides pose a danger in big lake, says rescuer
The seasonal residents were saved by complete strangers who heard their cries for help and responded. One of the rescuers is reaching out to tell swimmers of the danger created by shoreline tides.
“I had been swimming for about 30 minutes and heard someone behind me say ‘help’,” said 21-year-old college student Israel Thatcher of Linden, Michigan. “It was a little boy who was 30 or 40 yards further out, so I went to help.”
Thatcher, the grandson of Steve and Sally Miklos of Leland, swam to the boy in waves two to five feet high to grab the child and began swimming in when they both started to struggle. The boy’s father was helped by another man.
“He was grabbing around my neck and started to take us both down. So I told him to ease up a little while I continued to swim ashore,” said Thatcher, who estimated the depth of the water at about eight feet.
Just when Thatcher felt he wasn’t making any progress, a huge wave washed them both into the beach. All four people — the boy, his father and the two rescuers — reached the shore safely, but were exhausted when they reached land. It is the only time Thatcher, a student at Mott Community College, had ever been involved in a rescue of this sort.
The same day, in Berrien County, a Chicago area pediatrician drowned while trying to save two children from a riptide in Lake Michigan.
County marine patrol commander Charlie Belanger said riptides are a true weather-related occurrence on the big lake.
“When the wind and the waves are strong and they hit the shoreline, the water has to go somewhere else and it goes out,” Belanger said.
The veteran marine officer recalls at least three riptide incidents locally that resulted in drownings: one near Christmas Cove in Leelanau Township, a second near Van’s Beach and a third near Otter Creek along the Leelanau- Benzie County line. He advises swimmers who find themselves in a riptide to swim parallel to the shore.
“Eventually you’ll get out of it,” Belanger said.