The U.S. Coast Guard said this year has been one of the deadliest on Lake Michigan and are cautioning even the best of swimmers to pay extra attention to dangerous conditions in the water.
The warning comes after a 15-year-old Moken resident, Brooke Veldman, became a hero when she saw a trio of young boys in trouble in the water.
“It was just kind of an instinct,” she told NBC 5. “I was like, I can’t watch them drown, I have to do something.”
Cellphone video captured the chaos of the moment. Veldman was overcome by one of the panicking boys who pulled her under as she tried to save him. She lost consciousness and lifeguards rescued her and the other boys.
“I just remember laying on the beach face up with the people over me saying ‘are you OK? Are you OK,’” she recalled.
Earlier this week Travis Mensha, 14, drowned in Lake Michigan near Washington Park. Officials say he and another teen struggled in the water before Mensha went down. It was the third drowning death in that area this year.
Sgt. Sean Brown, of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, warned of rip currents, saying there have been more drowning deaths in the area than normal this year.
Experts say understanding and heeding colored flag warnings on the beach help keep simmers safe in the water.
“Yellow flags, if you’re not a good simmer, probably should be careful,” says Matthew Stonequist of the U.S. Coast Guard. “Red flags, definitely do not go in. That means the water’s closed for anyone—even the best swimmer—an Olympian can be caught in the rip currents.”
Experts also say that while instinct may tell you to jump into the water to help a struggling swimmer, they recommend calling for help and waiting for lifeguards and water rescue teams to arrive instead. They also say it’s good advice to use the buddy system when in the water.