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Reports of drowning in Lake Michigan are higher this year than last, group says

Lake Michigan
Jennifer Guerra
Michigan Radio
Lake Michigan as seen from Beaver Island

Instances of drowning in Lake Michigan are up this summer.

The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project tracks how many people drown in the Great Lakes. The nonprofit says incidences of drowning in Lake Michigan are over 60% higher when compared to last year.

Dave Benjamin is the group's co-founder.

"Contributing factors: we're having some great weekend weather. What we know is if it's warm, windy, waves on a weekend, the four W's, then we have a high number of people going to the beaches," Benjamin says.

Contrary to how many movies show it, Benjamin says when a person is drowning they can’t yell for help. He says the majority of drowning victims know how to swim. "Most people do not know that drowning is silent, that there's very little yelling or waving, and that a drowning person will usually submerge in less than one minute," Benjamin says.

If in the compromising situation, Benjamin says, "what we want people to do, if they are ever struggling in water over their head, is that that the flip, float, and follow - it's the stop, drop, and roll of water safety." He recommends going to a beach with a lifeguard. And, she says less than 1% of Great Lakes drowning victims were wearing life vets.

"Every beach that has public access, we would like to see lifeguards," Benjamin adds.

Of the 46 Great Lakes drownings reported in 2019, the group says 23 were in Lake Michigan. In total, the group says drownings across all the Great Lakes are down from last year.

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