Lake Michigan

Choppy Lake Michigan Waters Lead to Surge in Calls for Help

A United States Coast Guard helicopter hovered above beaches in northwest Indiana on Sunday as rescuers responded to several people struggling in rough waters on Lake Michigan.

One of those individuals, a 16-year-old boy, was pulled under the water in Portage. First responders couldn't locate him, and his body was found Monday, according to the Associated Press.

A man was also rescued from Porter Beach on Sunday and remains in critical condition, according to a spokesperson for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. 

The spokesperson also said another swimmer pulled from the water at Portage Riverwalk is in critical condition.

The incidents on Sunday highlight the differences between area beaches that are guarded and unguarded, especially during times where there are strong rip-currents or high waves on the lake.

Porter Beach, which appears to be under the jurisdiction of Indiana Dunes National Park and the town of Porter, does not have lifeguards.  The National Park System’s website warns people about dangerous swimming conditions at the beach.

Several yards to the east, at Indiana Dunes State Park, swimmers are warned not to enter rough waters by signs, lifeguards and park rangers, despite those warnings, an IDNR spokesperson told NBC 5 people visiting the state beach have been known to walk west to Porter Beach to enter the water.

Dave Benjamin, executive director of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, said he assisted with CPR on the swimmer at Porter Beach on Sunday.  He said there should be lifeguards at Porter Beach.

“If someone is struggling in the water, typically less than one minute until final submersion, if we can get that person out of the water and breathing in under two minutes, it’s about a 94% survival rate,” Benjamin said.

According to Benjamin, there have been 33 drownings in Lake Michigan this year.

The National Park and the town of Porter did not return our requests for comment.

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