Winner of the NDPA's 2012
      "Lifesaver of the Year" Award
Slide 1

In the News

Compilation of GLSRP TV Interviews

Updated 12/05/2018 11:12 p.m.


12/05/2018 – Sun Prairie Star – “Before I researched drowning, diving and spinal cord injuries for the book, I was very naïve about potential dangers relating to these water sports,” she said. This year, more than 100 people have drowned in the Great Lakes making it the deadliest year in a decade. That’s according to a tally by the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, a nonprofit water safety group that keeps a comprehensive database of Great Lakes drownings.

11/18/2018 – Parents Preventing Childhood Drowning – Sunday Survival Story: Swim Near a Lifeguard!

11/09/2018 – US News & World Report – Safety Group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes

11/09/2018 – Great Lakes Commission – Daily News – Safety group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes


11/08/2018 – Wood TV 8 – Safety group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes

11/09/2018 – Holland Sentinel, Holland, MI – 2018 deadliest year for Great Lakes drownings

11/09/2018 – Fox 17, Holland, MI – Safety group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes

11/09/2018 – Herald Courier, Holland, MI – 2018 deadliest year for Great Lakes drownings

11/09/2018 – Herald Palladium, St. Joseph, MI – Safety group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes

11/09/2018 – Detroit Free Press – Safety group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes

11/09/2018 – 9 & 10 News, Cadillac, MI– Safety group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes

11/09/2018 – WKAR, Michigan State University – Safety group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes

11/09/2018 – WXYZ TV Detroit – Safety group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes

11/11/2018 – Grand Haven Tribune – Safety group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes

11/09/2018 – Northwest Indiana Times – Safety group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes

11/10/2018 – South Bend Tribune, IN – 2018 is the deadliest year for Great Lakes drownings

11/09/2018 – Chicago Tribune – Safety group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes

11/09/2018 – The Pantagraph, Bloomington, IL – Safety group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes

11/09/2008 – The News-Herald, OH – Safety group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes

11/13/2018The Crescent-News, Defiance, OH – Safety group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes

11/09/2018 – KSTP ABC 5, Minneapolis, MN – Safety group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes

11/09/2018 – CBS 4, MN – Safety group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes


11/09/2018 – Lancaster Online, Lancaster, PA – Safety group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes

11/09/2018 – Mankato Free Press, South-Central Minnesota – Safety group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes

11/09/2018 – TribLive, Pittsburg, PA – Safety group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes


11/09/2018SF Gate, San Francisco, CA – Safety group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes


11/09/2018 – New Jersey Herald – Safety group: 2018 has been deadly year on Great Lakes

11/02/2018 – Bridge Michigan – Bob Pratt, executive director of education for the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project and a retired East Lansing fire marshal, offers tips for staying safe while you’re enjoying the vast bodies of water.

11/02/2018 – Bridge Michigan – Great Lakes drownings peaked in 2018. And the year’s not over. More than 100 people have drowned in the Great Lakes so far this year, making it the deadliest year this decade already.

That’s according to a tally by the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, a nonprofit water safety group that keeps a comprehensive database of Great Lakes drownings.

The group has tracked 728 such drownings since it started gathering the data in 2010. That includes 105 drownings in the first 10 months of 2018, at least six more than any other year.

Lake Michigan, with its vast shoreline and beaches near large populations, has claimed the most lives thus far, 37, followed by Lake Erie, 33, Lake Ontario, 21, Lake Huron, 8,  and Lake Superior, 6.

At least 13 of this year’s drownings were in Michigan waters, the data show. Another drowning — in September off of Lake Erie’s Turtle Island — happened along the Michigan-Ohio border.

11/02/2018 – WWMT – Greats Lakes rescue group said 2018 is seeing record number of drownings – A new report released Friday says 2018 is already the deadliest this decade for drownings in the Great Lakes.

The report, from a nonprofit called the “Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project” attributes the increase to warmer weather. Drownings typically spike in periods with what the project calls the three Ws — waves, winds and weekends. The report states that so far in 2018 there have been 105 drownings. That’s almost twice as many as I 2015. Also, the report states, most people who drown aren’t wearing life jackets.

10/31/2018 – UP Matters – Stay off piers, breakwaters during high winds, storms, wave action – Water Dangers. While many victims who have fallen or jumped off these structures were said to have been very good swimmers, the reality of past statistics paint a sad picture. In 2018 so far, there have been 102 drownings in the Great Lakes. Though not all of these drownings occurred at harbor structures, it is a grim reminder of the risks and dangers that are present when in and around water.

10/18/2018 – Detroit News – Tourists, residents alike hit by Mich. water deaths

10/14/2018 – The Record Eagle – DANGEROUS WATERS – Families, advocates deal with aftermath of death in or near water

10/10/2018 – CBC – Why are so many more people drowning in the Great Lakes?  It’s been a deadly year in the Great Lakes with a record number of people killed by drowning. According to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project one hundred and two people have died so far in 2018. Their executive director of education, Bob Pratt, spoke with us about the spike in drowning deaths this year.

10/05/2018 – Kenosha News – Readers discuss installation of first life ring kiosk — Life rings are credited with saving lives in Grand Haven, Holland and St. Joseph in Michigan, and Gary and Michigan City in Indiana

10/03/2018 – Kenosha News – City installs first life ring flotation equipment at Kenosha Harbor — “All I can say is, it is amazing, an historic moment for the city of Kenosha, the city government and the people of Kenosha. (We) came together and now we will have lifesaving devices (going up) on the north and the south piers,” Jim Zondlak, a KSFCA board member and former president, said Wednesday.

At the Common Council meeting earlier this week, Zondlak thanked aldermen for approving Mayor John Antaramian’s amended proposal authorizing four of six planned kiosk installations. In addition, the council approved a resolution by Ald. Dan Prozanski Jr., stepping up water safety education annually in middle and high schools, guided by the U.S. Coast Guard in cooperation with the Kenosha police and fire departments, the Kenosha YMCA and the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. “I’m overwhelmed with pride in everyone coming together. I could feel the vibe in the Common Council,” Zondlak said.

10/01/2018 – Kenosha News – Council to consider authorizing installation of life saving devices at Pike River, pier – Initiatives intended to bring life-saving devices and public awareness to the dangers of drowning in Lake Michigan will come before the City Council tonight.

Among them will be a resolution authorizing the city to install three life ring buoys on Kenosha Harbor’s north pier, a life ring set on the south wall of the harbor and another near the mouth of the Pike River which feeds into the lake near the band shell at Pennoyer Park.

The devices are expected to be stored in a cabinet, or kiosk, and will include attached ropes. The devices will be accessible to the the public in the event of an emergency.

Another resolution aims to educate middle and high school students about water safety. It calls for presentations led by the U.S. Coast Guard in partnership with Kenosha police and fire departments, the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project and the Kenosha Unified School District. The month of May would also be declared as “Lake Michigan Safety Awareness Month.”

Both are coming before the council tonight after at least three drownings over the last four months, including Donovan Anderson, 17, of Kenosha, who died after jumping into the lake at the pier with friends on Sept. 6. His body was recovered less than two weeks later.

10/01/2018 – Buffalo News – For Erie and the Great Lakes as a whole, 2018 ties a deadly record — This year has been Western New York’s deadliest for drownings in Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. The seven local drownings in 2018 – and two others with local connections – make up what’s also been among the deadliest years throughout the Great Lakes.

In all, 99 people have died so far in 2018 on the Great Lakes, tying 2012 and 2016 for the highest number of deaths on record, data from the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project shows.

Those lost include a beloved Lancaster school teacher, a Southtowns fisherman and Hamburg liquor store owner who was kite-surfing.

Two other deaths on Lake Erie occurred just outside of New York waters, including the July drowning of a 12-year-old Elmwood Franklin School girl in Fort Erie, Ont.

Great Lakes drownings in WNY – The seven drownings on Lake Erie and Lake Ontario combined is more than double the number of fatalities this decade.

The Buffalo sector of the U.S. Coast Guard reported, anecdotally, that it has seen more and more distress calls in the water in recent years. This year has been no exception.

“It’s been a busy season – a lot of responses,” said U.S. Coast Guard junior grade Lt. Kyle Maxey. “I think that’s had a lot to do with paddle-boarding and an increase in the amount of watercraft on the Great Lakes.”

You could also blame the heat. The summer of 2018 was the region’s seventh warmest on record, which would tend to draw more activity to the shorelines by boaters, swimmers, paddlers and jet-skiers.


The two summers this decade warmer than this past one – 2012 and 2016 – were the equally deadly years on the Great Lakes.

The first two drownings of the season occurred on Lake Erie five days – and about 5 miles – apart in May.

Eric Przykuta, a 43-year-old seventh-grade science teacher at Lancaster Middle School, died in an evening accident when the fishing boat he was riding in with two other men struck the breakwall near the Small Boat Harbor. Przykuta’s body was recovered the next morning by the U.S. Coast Guard. An avid boater and outdoors enthusiast, Przykuta was not wearing a life vest.

A few days later, Hamburg fisherman Robert Maccubbin, 50, died after apparently going overboard from a raft into the 46-degree lake off of Athol Springs.

On June 21, the Surf Rescue Project cites another suspected drowning that occurred when the body of a man was recovered from Lake Erie off of Woodlawn Beach. Accomplished kite-surfer Jeff Biehler, who owned Biehler’s Village Square Liquors in Hamburg, died after taking to Lake Erie on a warm and gusty afternoon on Aug. 15 and running into trouble in choppy waters. Lifeguards at nearby Hamburg Town Beach tried reaching Biehler, but they were unable to.

Weeks earlier, Catherine Winfield Butsch, a 12-year-old girl known as “Caty,” died after apparently suffering a medical event while swimming near Fort Erie, Ont. Caty was found unresponsive near Crescent Beach in the late afternoon of July 21. Bystanders and medical personnel tried to resuscitate the girl, but she later died in a Buffalo hospital.

Lake Ontario saw its own share of water-related tragedies this summer with at least three drownings in five weeks, including:

  • Stacy Fishbein, 21, of Vaughan, Ont., whose body was recovered July 28 near Olcott.
  • Carl F. Hazel, 66, of Albion, who was on a fishing boat that sank Aug. 25 about 9 miles off of the Orleans County shore.
  • Daniel Saik, 66, of Niagara Falls, Ont., whose body was recovered Aug. 31 along the lake shoreline in Burt.

In Hazel’s case, authorities said he was wearing a life jacket when his boat sank. Hazel and a companion were rescued by another fishing boat, but they’d been in the cold water for about two hours. His companion survived.

Other drownings across the Great Lakes drew international attention.

Former NHL goaltender and Stanley Cup champion Ray Emery died July 15 after he jumped off a boat to go swimming in Lake Ontario’s Hamilton Harbor and never resurfaced. The body of Emery, who was a native of Hamilton, was recovered later that afternoon about 60 feet from where he jumped in, according to a CTV News report.

On Aug. 30, a father and his three children drowned in a kayaking accident off a northern Wisconsin shoreline in Lake Superior. The Wisconsin family of five had launched a tandem kayak that afternoon to paddle to an island about 4 miles away, but the kayak capsized. Eric Fryman, 39, his two daughters, Kyra, 9, and Annaliese, 5, as well as his 3-year-old son, Jansen, drowned. The children’s mother, Cari Mews-Fryman, 29, was later rescued by a passing ship captain, according to a report in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Great Lakes drownings – Three of the warmest summers this decade have also brought the three highest numbers of annual drownings.

Think safety, be safe – Each drowning occurs because of its own set of circumstances, but experts say many of the tragedies are preventable.

The Coast Guard encourages anyone who plans to use a watercraft – whether a boat, Jet Ski, kayak or canoe – to seek the appropriate training first.

“Boater safety courses are one of the most important things you should do before heading out on a boat,” Maxey said.

Two other important tips from the Coast Guard: avoid alcohol and wear a life jacket.

“Wearing a life jacket is really important,” said Marty Denecke, the town of Hamburg’s director of youth, recreation and senior services.

Because of the number of boats, kayaks, Jet Skis and paddle-boats in the lake off of Hamburg’s shoreline, Denecke said the town takes extra precautions and stations some crew along the shoreline even when swimming at the town’s beach is closed.

“Surveying of the water, whether we are open or closed for swimming, is standard operating procedure,” Denecke said. “We don’t want it to happen on our watch. We take it very seriously.”

And even with that vigilance, tragedy struck twice this summer off of Hamburg’s shore.

Dave Benjamin, executive director of public relations and project management for the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, said family members who have lost a loved one often talk about how the drowning victim was physically fit and a good swimmer. Such was the case with Biehler, the Hamburg kite-surfer.

“Good swimmers drown,” Benjamin said. “Knowing how to swim is not enough; you need to know how to survive.”

Did you know? Benjamin’s regional nonprofit organization tries to prevent drownings through education and has tracked fatalities on all five lakes dating back to 2010. It’s the only organization collecting data for all drownings across all of the Great Lakes.

Benjamin gets people to think about water safety with a simple question: “Can you swim?”

Then he takes them through a series of common sense questions, including “What do you do if your clothes catch fire?” and “What number do you call in an emergency?”

Nearly all of the 30,000 people the organization surveyed knew the answers to those simple questions, and 90 percent of them knew how to swim.

The third question Benjamin asks stumps almost everyone: “What do you do if you’re drowning?”

“We’re not often playing with fire, but we are often playing in water,” Benjamin said.

That’s where the need for education comes in.

“Water safety is not common sense, but people assume it’s common sense,” Benjamin said. “There’s a stigma of drowning. People blame the victim.”

Benjamin added: “That’s getting in the way of getting funding for public education. Drowning is a public health issue, and it’s not treated like a public health issue.”

So, what do you do if you’re drowning?

“We call it the ‘flip, float and follow,'” Benjamin said, comparing it to the advice for if clothes catch fire. “It’s like the ‘stop, drop and roll’ of water safety.”

If you find yourself in deep water, the Surf Rescue Project recommends flipping over onto your back, floating or treading water with your head above the water and following a safe path out of the water.

The key is not panicking. Panic can trigger a set of physical symptoms – like shortness of breath and tightness in the chest – that can actually work against survival.

“When someone gets in trouble in the water, they have a panic attack.

“Do the opposite of your instincts. If you don’t get your breathing under control, you’re not going to survive.”

09/24/2018 – Kenosha News – Committees approve installing life rings, education resolution, violation penalties — In the wake of four lakefront drownings here the past two years, including most recently high school student Donovan Anderson, the city of Kenosha is moving toward a comprehensive approach to upgrade water safety.

It calls for the U.S. Coast Guard to make safety presentations to students in middle and high schools, in cooperation with the KPD, Kenosha Fire Department, Kenosha YMCA and the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.

09/16/2018 – Northwest Indiana Times – Water safety presentation tonight in Chesterton open to all – CHESTERTON — Learn how to stay safe while swimming in the Great Lakes during a presentation tonight at Bethlehem Lutheran Church. One hundred people have drowned in the Great Lakes this year, more than any other year since the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project began tracking drownings in 2010. In all, 723 people have died in all five Great Lakes since 2010, the project’s data show. In Lake Michigan so far this year, 33 people have drowned.

The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project will talk about water safety during a meeting at 5:30 p.m. Monday at Bethlehem Lutheran Church, 2050 W. 1100 North in Chesterton. The presentation is hosted by Chesterton Girl Scouts Troop 30373. The presentation is for everyone, including beachgoers, surfers, lifeguards, police officers, firefighters, paramedics, water rescue team members, dive team members and the U.S. Coast Guard, said Dave Benjamin, co-founder and executive director of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. The presentation will include information about drowning statistics; the signs of drowning; survival strategies, including “flip, float, follow;” how, why and where dangerous currents occur; basic water rescue; and basic water resuscitation.

09/13/2018 – Kenosha News – Mayor: Safest option is to fence off the north pier – Dave Benjamin, of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, put it similarly. “The indications are these incidents happen because the public isn’t educated and neither are the politicians. A throw ring, a rope and a hook, I would think, is about $50,” said Benjamin, who has been involved in the Kenosha YMCA’s project to promote water safety in the schools.  “It’s time to stop talking about it and just do it,” Benjamin added. “Unfortunately, this boy probably would have survived if there was a throw ring there within 50 feet. If you smelled smoke right now, you would look for a fire alarm. If you saw someone drowning, you would look for a throw ring.”

“A life ring gives the opportunity to save a life or rescue a person, where a sign just won’t do that,” Costabile said. ”You know, we’ve all been guilty of being a pier jumper. I asked my dad, and he did it, too. As long as that pier and water are together we have to have a life-saving device available so we can help in a situation like we had last week.”

Robert Stanick, the Army Corps of Engineers area engineer for the Lake Michigan office, said the required lease is “a simple real estate agreement.” “These are done relatively quickly. It could be a matter of a few weeks depending on the complexity of the situation. We did one in Port Washington that was completed in four weeks. It was mounting multiple life rings on a pier,” Stanick said. He noted the city and the Corps already have a real estate agreement for the south pier of the harbor and might not need to do a new and separate one for the north pier. He said the city could ask to expand the existing lease to the north pier across the channel.

09/13/2018 – Kenosha News – Life rings helping save lives in beach locations – There should be no question that life rings are an important step toward public safety.  Looking at other beach locations: life rings are credited with saving lives in Grand Haven, Holland and St. Joseph in Michigan, and Gary and Michigan City in Indiana, according to the non-profit Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. “If someone is drowning, they can find the life ring on the pier.” said Dave Benjamin, executive director of the organization.

The experience of Michigan City is worth sharing today and could offer insight and a road map for Kenosha officials. “Just call them the ‘rings of life,” read the headline of a July 30 story in the News Dispatch in Michigan City. “Mayor: Life rings along pier proving to be great investment.” Life rings were installed in Michigan City’s Washington Park in late 2016, and for at least the second time in July they were instrumental in saving a life.

Indiana conservation officials credited Myles Wright and Devin Newton with saving two young girls from drowning, the News Dispatch reported. “They absolutely came in handy,” Wright told the paper of the rescue in high winds and choppy water. “Without those rings, I’m not sure we could’ve gotten them out. The first girl might have been OK, but the second girl definitely would not. Without that ring, she would’ve gone under and been unconscious.”

Michigan City Mayor Ron Meer issued this statement: “It humbles me to know that the equipment we installed was utilized by two Michigan City residents to prevent drownings from occurring. I am so glad this had a good ending.”The city’s Fire Department, with the help of donations, raised money to buy the rings, ropes and cabinets; a $13,000 grant from ArcelorMittal to the city’s Lakefront Safety Committee allowed them to proceed with the purchase, the News Dispatch reported. “Through the efforts of the city and ArcelorMittal, two girls were rescued in rough waters on Tuesday,” the mayor said in late July.

Kenosha officials should act quickly when given approval to install the life rings and equipment and work toward permanent funding. Examples like this are out there.

09/10/2018 – WILX – Beach hazard issued with high waves, rip currents expected – “I hoped the Great Lakes drownings would subside after the 13 Labor Day weekend fatalities, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to slow down any time soon,” said Dave Benjamin, Executive Director of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. “This year is on track to be the worst year on record for the Great Lakes.”

A total of [98] drownings have been reported on the Great Lakes this year, 33 in Lake Michigan. Benjamin calls drownings a public health crisis.

“I cannot stress enough that drowning really is a public health issue that needs to be treated like a public health issue. A water safety school curriculum needs to be mandated and funded in the Great Lakes region as well as nationwide. Great Lakes drownings are just the tip of the iceberg of the nationwide drowning crisis.”

09/10/2018 – WTMJ – Non-profit hopes to teach “Flip, Float & Follow” water safety

09/10/2018 – FB Promo Today’s TMJ4 – LAKE MICHIGAN DROWNINGS: 33 people who have drowned in Lake Michigan this year. The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project is working to spread the word about what to do if you’re struggling in the water: flip, float, follow. Julia Fello has the story

09/09/2018 – The Herald Argus – Stay out of the water — Beach hazard issued with high waves, rip currents expected

09/08/2018 – The News Dispatch – Stay out of the water – Beach hazard issued with high waves, rip currents expected – “I hoped the Great Lakes drownings would subside after the 13 Labor Day weekend fatalities, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to slow down any time soon,” said Dave Benjamin, executive director of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. “This year is on track to be the worst year on record for the Great Lakes.” A total of 96 drownings have been reported on the Great Lakes this year, 33 in Lake Michigan. Benjamin calls drownings a public health crisis. “I cannot stress enough that drowning really is a public health issue that needs to be treated like a public health issue. A water safety school curriculum needs to be mandated and funded in the Great Lakes region as well as nationwide. Great Lakes drownings are just the tip of the iceberg of the nationwide drowning crisis.”

09/08/2018 – Fox 6 News – ‘On track to be the worst year on record:’ Almost 100 people have drowned in the Great Lakes in 2018

09/07/2018 – CBS 58 – “Beyond a nightmare:” Mother whose son drowned in 2013 calling for change after Kenosha teen drowns. Susan Foster lost her son five years ago on the same pier. She was watching the rescue efforts on Friday. “Really rough to see these boats out here and relive what we did five years ago,” Foster said. Her son, Ben drowned and it took 12 days for crews to find his body. “Broke my heart that this family is going to have to go through this… just like we did,” Susan Foster said.” To think that your child is in that water is beyond a nightmare.”  Foster said her son was a pilot, athletic and a good swimmer, but Lake Michigan is just too dangerous.

09/07/2018 – Kenosha News – Search called off for teen presumed drowned in harbor – With conditions worsening on Lake Michigan, the Kenosha Fire Department ended the search for a teen presumed drowned in Kenosha Harbor.  The Kenosha Fire Department, which is leading the search efforts, said it had searched the harbor channel and areas near the pier multiple times without success, and said conditions, including strong currents and 6-foot waves, were putting search crews at risk. The search was called off at about 4 p.m.  “We’ve used literally everything at our disposal today — firefighters, drones, a helicopter, sonar — and have been unable to locate the victim at this point,” said Battalion Chief Matthew Haerter.

The 17-year-old boy was with friends when he jumped off the north pier at the harbor and was overcome by strong currents Thursday. Witnesses said the boy, a student at Indian Trail High School and Academy, was pulled under the water and surfaced twice, each time about 20 yards further away, before disappearing.  The teen’s name has not yet been released.

09/06/2018 – WGN 720 AM – Water Safety with Dave Benjamin – Tonight on The Patti Vasquez Show with Andrea Darlas: To discuss water safety and to share some tips to stay safe we welcome Dave Benjamin (Director of Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, Halle Quezada, creator of the Chicago Alliance for Waterfront Safety, and John Kocher, co-founder of the Matthew Kocher Foundation).

09/06/2018 – Herald Argus – Man rescued after falling off pier – Lifeguards keep him from being ‘deadly weekend’ statistic – MICHIGAN CITY — A man who fell off the pier in Washington Park onto the rocks on Sunday was pulled from the water by lifeguards and taken to a hospital in stable condition. The Michigan City Fire Department and La Porte County EMS were called to the park just after 4 p.m. on Sunday.

09/06/2018 – WNDU – ST. JOSEPH, MI– Even though Labor Day is over and lifeguards are no longer on duty at beaches, many beach-goers are taking a final advantage of the warm weather. But according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, Lake Michigan has taken 31 lives this year alone, marking it one of the deadliest summers since 2010. That’s why the U.S. Coast Guard in St. Joseph, Michigan is stressing water safety as the seasons begin to change.

09/06/2018 – The News Dispatch – MICHIGAN CITY – A man who fell off the pier in Washington Park onto the rocks on Sunday was pulled from the water by lifeguards and taken to a hospital in stable condition.

“An elderly man fell off the wall onto the rocks near the lighthouse,” a Fire Department report said. When firefighters arrived, lifeguards had the man out of the water on a board, and firefighters assisted in carrying him over the wall and back to the beach, the report said.

“We heard a call come over the scanner that a man had fallen off the pier and hit his head,” Michigan City Parks Superintendent Jeremy Kienitz said. “Three of our lifeguards responded and were able to get to him and put him on a backboard to safely transport him to EMS once they arrived.”

The man was fortunate because Sunday was one of the last days lifeguards were on duty this season. Overall it was a deadly weekend on the Great Lakes, with at least a dozen drownings reported, three in Lake Michigan.

“This was the deadliest Labor Day Weekend since we started tracking statistics in 2010,” said Dave Benjamin, executive director of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.

“And the worst part of this weekend are the people on social media abusing the stigma of drowning and attacking the victims and their family members.”

The Lake Michigan victims, all of whom drowned on Friday, were a 25-year-old woman and a 30-year-old man in Chicago; and a woman in her 60s in Kenosha, Wisconsin. There were four drownings in Lake Erie and four more in Lake Superior, where a father and three children – ages 3, 5 and 9 – drowned when their kayak overturned near Madeline Island off Bayfield, Wisconsin. A 12th drowning was reported on Lake Ontario.

“Unfortunately this societal point of view gives the public the false sense of security that ‘It can’t happen to me,’ and ‘It can’t happen to me because I wouldn’t be that stupid,’ and ‘You can’t fix stupid,’ Benjamin said.

“‘I didn’t know…’ is the number one thing that we hear from family and friends of victims after a tragic event. Water safety is not common sense, yet most people assume it is common sense and that is one of the reasons why drowning continues to be a neglected public health issue.”

As of Tuesday, the GLSRP had confirmed 91 drownings in the Great Lakes this year, including 31 on Lake Michigan. That is the highest number for any year since 2010, except 2012 and 2016, when there were 99 for the entire year. Since 2010, the project has reported 710 drownings on the five lakes, 291 in Lake Michigan.

09/04/2018 – Northwest Indiana Times – Organization says recent Labor Day weekend deadliest for drownings since 2010 – This was the deadliest Labor Day weekend since the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project began tracking drowning statistics in 2010, the organization’s director said. There were 12 drownings in the Great Lakes over the holiday weekend, adding to the 91 total drownings that were recorded so far this year, according to a Tuesday news release from the organization. Since 2010, there have been 714 Great Lakes drownings.

09/04/2018 – Journal Sentinel – The body of a swimmer from Franklin who disappeared in Lake Michigan two weeks ago has been found, authorities reported Tuesday. Ahmad Z. Adl, 34, was part of a group of five people who were camping at Harrington Beach State Park in Ozaukee County on Aug. 20 when they decided to go swimming about 1 p.m. A search was launched for Adl when he didn’t return to shore. Adl’s body was found floating at Whitefish Dunes State Park in Door County at 7:54 a.m. Sunday

09/04/2018 – Fox 6 News – ‘The deadliest since we started tracking in 2010:’ 12 drownings in Great Lakes over Labor Day weekend

09/01/2018 – The News Dispatch – Caution urged when swimming in big lake — Two Lake Michigan drownings make for deadly start to long weekend

08/31/2018 – WZZM – Father and three children die after kayak capsizes in Lake Superior – Going into Labor Day weekend, the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project is warning people to be careful around the water.

08/28/2018 – NPR: Ideas Stream – It has been a deadly year on Lake Erie.  We’ll talk with the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project about the dangers the lake still poses on these hot, final days of summer into fall. And if you’re drowning education comes from what you’ve seen on movies and television, you may miss the moment when your help is needed most. They’ll explain. Guests: Dave Benjamin, Executive Director, The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project and Melissa Zirkle, Great Lakes Safety Advocate

08/28/2018 – CBC News – Great Lakes swimmers ignoring warnings to stay out of the water, report says — 73 people have drowned in the Great Lakes this year

08/27/2018 – The Star Beacon – ASHTABULA — A memorial fundraising dinner has been scheduled to help the family of 16-year-old drowning victim Micah Nugent with funeral expenses. Nugent died Aug. 22 at MetroHealth Medical Center after getting caught in dangerous waves the day before at Walnut Beach.

Melissa Zirkle, of Madison, who is organizing the fundraising dinner, said she reached out to the Nugent family because she knew from experience their biggest need, aside from prayers, was help with funeral expenses. Zirkle, whose own 13-year-old son, Jermaine, drowned five years ago in Lake Erie, hopes to draw 200 people to the dinner. “I’ve hosted benefits and fundraisers many times before so I offered to host a benefit,” she said. “I want to get the word out and make this a wonderful turnout for this incredible deserving family.”

Zirkle has made it her mission to honor her son’s memory and save people from the same tragedy through water safety education. Her efforts, which include water safety classes for Madison and Ashtabula students in partnership with the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, earned her the honor as the Great Lakes Water Safety Consortium 2016 Water Safety Superhero of the Year.

Eighty-eight people drowned in the Great Lakes last year, and 73 to date in 2018, with 26 of the 73 in Lake Erie, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.

08/27/2018 – 9 and 10 News – Ohio Man Dies After Falling Off Frankfort Pier into Lake Michigan

08/26/2018 – MLIVE – Michigan surfer tells of attempts to save drowned man who was washed off pier — One of those attempted rescuers was surfer Ryan Gerard, 40, of St. Joseph. Gerard was at the Frankfort beach enjoying the day with his family, riding the cascading waves and stopping for breaks between sets. It was during one of those breaks that Gerard, owner of the Third Coast Surf Shop, noticed commotion near the pier. A few second later, Gerard realized someone was in trouble and sprang into action. The surfer recalled the accident and its heartbreaking aftermath in a long post published on his company’s Facebook page.

08/24/2018 – Cleveland 19 News – Ashtabula teen becomes latest Lake Erie drowning death in 2018 – Safety experts and government officials are expected to meet in Cleveland this fall to discuss water and swim safety in Lake Erie. A GoFundMe page has been setup to help Nugent’s family with funeral costs. Link in story.

08/24/1018 – – Ashtabula teen dies after being caught in Lake Erie waves – Nugent was not swimming alone on Tuesday, according to a GoFundMe to support his family.

08/24/2018 – WKYC – 16-year-old swimmer drowns at Ashtabula’s Walnut Beach; 26 Lake Erie fatalities this year. 7 drownings have taken place on Lake Erie this month, including 5 in Northern Ohio. A GoFundMe page has been set up to assist the Nugent family with funeral arrangements. (Link in article.)

08/22/2018 – WGN 720 AM – The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project and great water safety tips – WGN Radio’s Patti Vasquez is joined by Dave Benjamin, Director of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project to discuss water safety and how you can stay safe while swimming during your aquatic fun.

08/22/2018 – WLS 890 AM the John Howell and Ray Stevens show – Live Water Safety Segment, Online here: Call in with your questions, comments, and concerns too!!! Call or text during the show to 312-591-8900.

08/22/2018 – ABC 5 News Cleveland – A 16-year-old in critical condition after nearly drowning in Lake Erie; Lake Erie leads the Great Lakes in 2018 drownings with 25.

08/21/2018 – ABC 7 – Beach Hazard in effect for Lake Michigan Tuesday after 3 boys drown over weekend – As if on cue, surfers like Jim Hoop began showing up at Indiana’s Whiting Beach.  “If you don’t know how to swim or do this, it’s absolutely not the time. Especially the lake,” Hoop said. “It’s nonstop. It’s not like the ocean where there is a lull in the wave. Here the wave is breaking every moment so it will suck you right out and down faster than you can expect.” The warnings come after three boys died this weekend after they were pulled from Lake Michigan in separate incidents. Two of the boys were Joshua Torres, 10, of Chicago, and Malik Freeman, 14, of Aurora, who were swimming in restricted areas at the same Indiana Dunes State Park beach.

08/20/2018 – WLS – ‘THEY SHOULD HAVE SAID SOMETHING’ – Malik’s mother, Micah Freeman, said she did not know that a 10-year-old boy had been pulled from the water just an hour before her son went under. “They should have said something, a 10 year old was just pulled out of the water lifeless. They should have said this, I would have taken my kids and went home,” Freeman said. From shore, Freeman had been keeping a close eye on her kids in the water when she noticed they drifted down a bit. “I started jogging a little bit to tell Malik to come closer, then I noticed his hand go up, then I started screaming ’cause I could tell he was in trouble at the time,” she said. Her husband, other beachgoers and just two lifeguards went into the water to help, Freeman said. “There were two other lifeguards with their hands on their hips just watching, I said, ‘I need you to help.’ He said, ‘We don’t have our gear,” she said. Malik, who his mother said was a good swimmer and knew the dangers of rip tides, was pulled out of the water a short time later. Life-saving measures were not enough. He was taken to a local hospital and then airlifted to a Chicago hospital where he was pronounced dead. Malik was to turn 15 next week. He was to be a sophomore at Waubonsie Valley High School in High School in Aurora.”He was so much fun and he was so protective of me, you couldn’t ask for a better kid, his heart was so pure,” Freeman said.

08/20/2018 – WWMT – Officials warn public of dangerous water, swimming conditions

08/20/2018 – Chicago Tribune – Number of kids drowning in Lake Michigan increases; dangerous conditions continue Tuesday

08/20/2018 – NWI Times – Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project: 22 people have drowned in Lake Michigan this year as NWS forecasts life-threatening swim conditions

08/20/2018 – Hawaii News – There have been 64 drownings in the Great Lakes this year so far, with Lake Erie accounting for the most deaths. According to statistics from the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, 23 people have died in Lake Erie between the start of the year and Aug. 19. The most recent drowning in Lake Erie according to the GLSRP occurred Friday morning when a man jumped out his boat near Put-in-Bay. He did not resurface. Lake Michigan follows Lake Erie with 21 total drowning deaths this year, including two this past weekend. Since the group started accumulating data in 2010, 687 Great Lakes drownings have been reported.

08/20/2018 – Cleveland Scene – More Drowning Deaths in Lake Erie Than Any Other Great Lake in 2018

08/20/2018 – Cleveland 19 News – Lake Erie has the most drowning deaths of the Great Lakes this year

08/20/2018 – Tuscon News – Lake Erie has the most drowning deaths of the Great Lakes this year

08/19/2018 – Your Erie – Water safety organization releases Great Lakes drowning statistics

08/19/2018 – ABC 7 – 3 boys, ages 10 to 14, die after being pulled from Lake Michigan at Indiana, Waukegan beaches – Friday evening a 14-year-old boy recovered from the water near Waukegan died Sunday. Saturday evening, 10-year-old Joshua Torres, of Chicago, and 14-year-old Malik Freeman, of Aurora, were pulled from the water within an hour of each other at the same Indiana Dunes State Park beach. Both boys also died.

08/19/2018 – WGN 9 – 3 boys drown during dangerous weekend for swimmers in Lake Michigan

08/19/2018 – NBC 15 – 2 killed, 1 in critical condition in separate drownings this weekend; bringing total to 64 across Great Lakes

08/19/2018 – Fox 6 – 2 killed, 1 in critical condition in separate drownings this weekend; bringing total to 64 across Great Lakes Unfortunately the boy in critical condition died. 65 Great Lakes Drownings in 2018; 24 of those in Lake Michigan, plus 1 last listed in Critical Condition. 688 Great Lakes drownings since 2010; 313 of those in Lake Michigan.

08/06/2018 – UpNorthLive – Safety tips for swimming in the Great Lakes — “It blows my mind that water safety curriculum isn’t in the state, statewide, because you’re always near a body of water,” said Dave Benjamin, the executive director of The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. “And it blows my mind that you have all these beaches with no life guards.”

08/06/2018 – WZZM – Tips for surviving a rip current in Lake Michigan – Rip currents are quite common in the Great Lakes; here are some survival tips if you get caught in one.

08/02/2018 – WSBT 22 – Special Report: What to do for a drowning victim after you call 911

07/31/2018 – WSBT 22 Promo – “When seconds count…”

07/30/2018 – Kenosha News – Water safety initiative calls on greater action to prevent drowning deaths — The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project gave a presentation Monday on water safety education to a group that included YMCA Executive Director Cindy Altergott, Somers Fire Chief Carson Wilkinson, John Raquet, and Peggy Burke, a Kenosha resident whose husband drowned in Lake Erie while on a fishing trip, among others.

The presentation focused on a number of ways people can prevent drownings, including the use of flotation devices, wearing life jackets, knowing weather and water conditions and identifying what drowning looks like.

The group also discussed ideas from staffing beaches with lifeguards to better signage indicating the dangers of swimming in dangerous areas, such as the Pike outlet, as well as flotation devices that could be placed in and around the piers. Some floats are equipped with live cameras and signals that allow 911 dispatchers to recognize that the device has been activated at a specific location.

The group recognizes funding will be a challenge but it also looked to see which businesses and nonprofits, as well as elected officials, step up to help bring water safety to the fore.

One thing for sure is it takes a community willing to come together to prevent drownings.

07/17/2018 – WNDU – Facebook Live – Beach Safety

07/17/2018 – WNDU – How to know if it’s safe to swim in Lake Michigan

07/17/2018 – Holland Sentinel – Second man drowns in Allegan County in two days

07/12/2018 – ABC Channel 10/13 – Under Water: Searching for Air Pt.

07/12/2018 – NBC – More Lifeguards, Signage Called for After Drowning Traged

07/12/2018 – WGN – After girl drowns in Lake Michigan, petition seeks extended lifeguard hour

07/12/2018 – Chicago Tribune – Darihanne’s death and lifeguard hours: Dealing with a fickle Lake Michigan

07/12/2018 – Chicago Tribune – A nighttime drowning in Lake Michigan – and no city lifeguards on duty prompts calls for change

07/12/2018 – Holland Sentinel – Advocates: More Great Lakes lifeguards are needed to prevent drownings – The Great Lakes State boasts the nation’s longest freshwater coastline. Each summer, tourists and locals in Michigan flock to beaches to cool off in the water.  But along with beautiful sunsets on the shoreline and family memories, the Great Lakes carry danger in their powerful waters.  Since 2010, 662 people have drowned in the Great Lakes, with nearly half of those drownings taking place on Lake Michigan. Yet despite of an average of 33 drownings per year, very few Lake Michigan beaches have lifeguards watching the waves.

“Lifeguards are the gold-standard when it comes to beach safety,” said Bob Pratt, education director at Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, a nonprofit which aims to eradicate Great Lakes drownings through water safety advocacy. “It’s frustrating to know there’s a solution to hundreds of people dying every decade from drownings, yet the powers that be don’t do what’s right.”

07/12/2018 – Holland Sentinel – Keep safe on the Great Lakes with these tips

07/12/2018 – Holland Sentinel – Quick Hits: Four thoughts on this week’s news  2. Invest in lake safety for summer – With Lake Michigan temperatures reaching into the 70s, we’re happy to share Holland’s beaches with tourists who come to soak up the West Michigan sun.

What we’re not happy to share is the danger that comes with swimming in the Great Lakes. As Audra Gamble and Melissa Frick reported Thursday, July 12, over 660 people have drowned in the Great Lakes since 2010. Almost half of those drownings take place in Lake Michigan. For those who aren’t from Michigan, the power of the big lake is often underestimated. This is especially true of teenage boys, who are some of the most likely populations to drown.

The “Pure Michigan” tourism campaign has been wildly successful, making Michigan a hotspot for summer vacations. To make the Pure Michigan campaign so effective, the state piled money into TV ads, billboards and radio spots.  Perhaps it’s time the state also puts money into lifeguards that keep those families safe once they make their way to Michigan beaches.

The U.S. Coast Guard does a fine job of keeping Michigan’s waterways safe, but there’s clearly a need for more public education and eyes on the water to prevent us reporting on the 700th Great Lakes drowning later this year.

07/12/2018 – Kenosha News – Safety Around Water: Be aware of dangerous currents, winds and cold water

07/12/2018 – AP – US News & World Reports – Chicago Urged to Extend Lifeguard Hours After Drowning – The Chicago Park District is being urged to extend lifeguard patrols after the recent drowning of a 13-year-old girl.

07/10/2018 – WDIO – Thursday at Ten: Under Water: Searching for Air – According to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Program, there have been 660 Great Lakes drownings since 2010, and there have been 37 already this year.  Drowning was the reported cause of death in 80 percent of recreational boating fatalities in 2016, according to the U.S. Coast Guard and 83 percent of who drowned were not wearing a life jacket.  There are ways to keep you and your family safe. How can you tell if there are dangerous rip currents and what should we do if we are ever caught in one?
07/08/2018 – WLNS – A look at safety on the water, following 4 drownings in Mid-Michigan this week

07/08/2018 – WBEZ 91.5 – Why Do Chicago Beaches Ban Flotation Devices? – Many people underestimate the dangers that come with the windy, unpredictable local conditions on the Great Lakes, says Dave Benjamin, a safety advocate who heads the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.

“We’ve had 660 drownings in the Great Lakes since 2010,” he notes. “Half of those were in Lake Michigan,” and half of those happened in the south end of the lake, here in Chicago, and in Milwaukee and Northwest Indiana. Benjamin attributes these drownings, in part, to the shifting winds and dangerous water currents in the area. When you add flotation devices to that equation, he says, that combination can be surprisingly dangerous.

“These toys can actually pose some hazards that people are not aware of,” Benjamin says. “If there is a light offshore wind, it could blow the inflatable object into deeper water where the child or parent could go after it.”  And when they go after it, he says, swimmers can end up in currents or winds that make it impossible to return. Other beachgoers can be blown far into the lake while on a flotation device that they can’t control. This happened to an Indiana couple in 2012 and to Chicago kids in 1988.

Two cousins — a boy and a girl — took a raft out near Montrose Harbor on a warm April afternoon, after the wind pushed them far into the lake. Finally, they jumped off to try to swim back, the winds were strong and the water was cold. A windsurfer was able to save the 11-year-old boy, but the boy’s 10-year-old cousin drowned.  At the beaches in Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, flotation devices are permitted but authorities “caution their use for safety reasons during strong winds, specifically south winds, as they can push swimmers far into Lake Michigan.”

And at the many completely unguarded beaches throughout Michigan’s Harbor Country on the other side of the lake, swimmers can use flotation devices freely — but at their own risk. For those folks, Benjamin has some advice: “Don’t go out in an inflatable raft with an offshore wind,” he says. “And if the wind blows an inflatable toy out, just let it go. It’s not worth it.” Finally, if you have to choose just one flotation device for your next trip to the beach, he says, “make it a U.S. Coast Guard-approved, properly fitting life jacket.”

06/07/2018 – Detroit News – Near-tragedy inspires [Jamie Racklyeft’s] Great Lakes anti-drowning effort

07/06/2018 – ABC 7 – dangerous waves, rip currents make local beaches hazardous

07/05/2018 – Pioneer Press – Water recreation can be fun, but also dangerous — FRANKFORT — While people turn to the water to get relief from the summer heat, it can also be dangerous, especially on Lake Michigan.

According to statistics from the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, more people drown in Lake Michigan each year than any of the other Great Lakes. In 2017, 40 people drown in Lake Michigan. This year, seven have drown so far.

In any water emergency, the Great Lakes Surf and Rescue Project advocates a flip, float, follow strategy.  If people think they are starting to drown, they need to remain calm and flip onto their backs and float. Just keep your head above water and keep your chest at the water level. Floating can calm people down. When people panic, they exhale more, and they deflate their lungs and lower their natural buoyancy. Floating also conserves energy. Once you are floating and calm, find the safest route out of the water.

07/05/2018 – Kenosha News – Another tragedy too easily avoided – It’s happened again — someone has drowned in Lake Michigan. In this most recent drowning, a 10-year-old girl was swimming near the area where the Pike River meets the lake Saturday evening when she began having trouble in the water. Her father, a 28-year-old Kenosha man who didn’t know how to swim, entered the water to save her.  However, he soon got into trouble as well. When first responders arrived, he was “floating and being pushed by waves.” He was revived, but died two days later at a Kenosha hospital.

In 2015, Dave Benjamin, a spokesman for the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, an organization that seeks to prevent drownings in the Great Lakes, said Michigan enacted legislation that shields municipalities from lawsuits related to safety equipment near the water.

And those life-saving devices work.  “First off, life rings really do save lives. It’s irresponsible to have that access to water without having lifesaving devices there,” Benjamin said. “A life ring is one of the easiest ways to save a drowning victim, especially off a pier. We don’t advocate pier jumping, but we know people will do it. So having the equipment there is great.”  More signs and the addition of life rings and ropes may not prevent another drowning, but if just one person is saved, isn’t it worth it?

07/01/2019 – Chicago Tribune – DNR hosts free events for public to explore Lake Michigan Water Trail — Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project was in attendance and set up a tented booth next to the lakeshore to teach children and adults about safety when in the water. Bob Pratt, director of education, said he teaches people to flip, float and follow when encountering an emergency in the water.  Most folks know to stop, drop and roll when they catch on fire, he said, but many don’t realize what to do when faced with a potential drowning situation in the water.

06/30/2018 – ABC 7 – GLSRP at IL DNR Lake Michigan Water Trail Event at Winthrop Harbor.

06/30/2018-2 – ABC 7 – GLSRP at IL DNR Lake Michigan Water Trail Event at Winthrop Harbor — Chicago Weather: Excessive Heat Warning in effect for area as heat wave continues Saturday

06/30/2018 – Daily Herald – Excessive heat warning extended to 7 p.m. Sunday – – “We call this a lake, but it’s really like an inland sea. But when you come and use the lakes, you need to remember it’s not like a backyard pool,” said Bob Pratt, of The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.

06/21/2018 – MLIVE – 99% of Great Lakes drowning victims weren’t wearing a life jacket — Since 2010, 643 people have drowned in the Great Lakes and all but six of those victims weren’t wearing a personal flotation device.

With summer’s arrival on Thursday, June 21, comes plenty of fun on the water, spurring officials, advocacy groups and loved ones of drowning victims to remind those recreating on a boat or kayak to always wear a life jacket.

To date this year, there have been 20 drownings on the Great Lakes, according to data from the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, a water safety advocacy group that tracks drownings. David Benjamin, a spokesman for the organization, said his team is working to confirm four additional drownings that may have taken place over the past few weeks.Seven of the 20 drownings this year occurred in Lake Michigan, which has been the deadliest of the Great Lakes over the past eight years.

There were 298 drownings on Lake Michigan since 2010 — making up about 46 percent of total drownings on the Great Lakes in the past eight years.


Benjamin said the number of drownings have fluctuated, but the dips in 2014 and 2015 were likely due to cooler-than-normal temperatures during the summer months. The organization doesn’t track inner-water drownings, like on rivers.

Benjamin got involved with the organization in 2010 after he nearly died from a drowning while surfing on the Great Lakes. Since then, he’s advocated for people to always wear properly fitted life jackets and take as many safety classes as possible, and then bigger tasks, like requiring retailers to sell life jackets with recreational watercraft, like paddle boards and kayaks.

People can find themselves in potential drowning situations after going overboard on a boat, simply jumping into the water to cool off or becoming detached from a towing activity, like water skiing or tubing.

But the No. 1 reason those people ultimately drown is because they weren’t wearing a life jacket. None of the Great Lakes drowning victims in 2017, for instance, were wearing a life jacket.

06/18/2018 – WNDU – Lifeguards get summer training for beach season

06/17/2018 – WSBT 22 – Lake Michigan beaches work to reduce drownings

06/15/2018 – WNDU – Officials prepare for busy Father’s Day weekend at Lake Michigan beaches

06/09/2018 – Video – GLSRP Open Water Surf Lifeguarding In-service…

06/08/2018 – NBC 5 – Authorities Warn of Dangers to Lake Michigan Swimmers

06/07/2018 – Post-Tribune – Lifeguards train to save lives at Indiana Dunes – On a windy day that caused the waves on Lake Michigan at Indiana Dunes State Park to be even more unpredictable than usual, Bob Pratt, Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project director of education, told the group of lifeguards that stood before him that they are going to train until they get it right.

“Most people’s experiences with lifeguards are at swimming pools, but a beach like Lake Michigan is far more challenging and requires a completely different skill set,” Pratt said. “We train harder than professional athletes in many cases. If (LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers star forward) has a bad day, he might not win the game. If a lifeguard has a bad day, someone might lose their life.”

Pratt and Dave Benjamin, GLSRP executive director, were tasked with leading over a dozen lifeguards, mostly teenagers, in an open water surf lifeguard training session Tuesday afternoon. Benjamin said, according to the Centers for Disease Control, that drowning is one of the leading causes of accidental death in the U.S. as well as worldwide, and that it is the leading cause of accidental death for children ages 1-4.

“We take the research, statistics and data and break it down, so beachgoers know it’s one of the leading causes of accidental deaths, which most people don’t know,” Benjamin said. “This summer with this grant (through the Indiana Department of National Resources), we can provide 24 hours of lifeguard in-service training for each Lake Michigan lifeguard.”

Benjamin said with the drowning of 16-year old boy, Angel Sedano of Gurnee, Ill., on Sunday, the number of Great Lakes drownings since 2010 is now 643, almost half of which occur in Lake Michigan. Benjamin said part of the training process is explaining the signs of a potential drowning victim and how to identify a potential victim.

“People assume drowning is a lot of waving, yelling and splashing as a long traumatic even at the surface of the water, but when someone is drowning it often appears as if they’re treading water,” Benjamin said. “If you don’t know what drowning looks like, you’ll miss it. We believe drowning is preventable and survivable.”

06/07/2018 – Western Michigan University – WSW: The Rare Lifeguard On A Great Lakes Beach In Michigan — Finding statistics on drownings in the Great Lakes is difficult. Malewitz says there is not a government source for those numbers. But the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project attempts to compile numbers by monitoring media and police reports. Bob Pratt, one of the two people who runs the project says there have been at least 640 drownings on the Great Lakes since 2010. But Pratt says it’s possible the number is higher.

Despite what is called a “vastly neglected area of public health,” it’s rare to find a lifeguard on a Great Lakes beach in Michigan. New Buffalo is an exception, there was a backlash when the city budget did not include money for lifeguards. Malewitz says after a very heated public meeting, the city council decided to stay the course for now, and keep lifeguards on New Buffalo beaches.

06/06/2018 – CBS – News of the Day – Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project; Lake Michigan Water Safety Presentation in Ogden Dunes June 16th.

06/06/2018 – CBS 2 – Mobile Weather Lab: Drowning Prevention — CBS 2’s Ed Curran is live with the Mobile Weather Lab to discuss drowning prevention. The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project reports 20 people have already drowned so far this year.

05/21/2018 – Chicago Tribune – From one end of the region’s Lake Michigan shoreline to the other, officials who oversee beaches are making similar plans to line up lifeguards before Memorial Day weekend, the official kickoff of beach season.

The lifeguards, officials said, are in place for a reason: Lake Michigan can be dangerous and unpredictable. According to statistics from the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, a water safety advocacy organization, Lake Michigan claimed 291 lives between 2010 and 2017.

The year 2012 was the deadliest of those years, with 50 drownings; 2016 followed with 46. The lake claimed 40 lives last year, according to the project’s statistics.

At the Hammond Marina, Kruszynski said lifeguards would be on duty from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week starting Memorial Day weekend.At Whihala Beach in Whiting, lifeguards have been a part of the seasonal mix as long as Mike Nastav, recreation director for Whiting Parks and Recreation, can remember.

“We feel it’s for the best for the safety. It’s obvious how dangerous Lake Michigan can be. The weather can change at the flick of a switch with the wind and the waves. We’re pretty cautious,” he said.

Indiana Dunes State Park, which has a large swath of beach in front of the pavilion, expanded its lifeguard corps last year to cover more territory, said property manager Brandt Baughman.

Previously, the beach east of Dunes Creek did not have lifeguards during the week but as that section of the beach got busier, the park could justify adding lifeguards there seven days a week, he said, adding the beach west of the creek had lifeguards seven days a week.

Last year was the first season the park had lifeguards on both sides of the creek for the entire week.

“I think that was something that made the park run a lot smoother,” Baughman said, adding people didn’t understand why that section of the beach was closed.

The park will have 20 lifeguard positions this year, comparable to last year, he said.

05/11/2017 – LaPorte County Life – City of Michigan City Shares Swimming Safety – “Swimming is a fun and enjoyable activity for children and adults alike, and it’s an easy way to stay physically active and improve strength, flexibility and stamina,” said Park Superintendent Jeremy Kienitz. “The City of Michigan City is committed to providing as many opportunities as possible for everyone to swim and learn water safety practices.”

As part of National Water Safety Month in May, the City of Michigan City and Michigan City Area Schools have collated together in an effort to prevent “water emergencies.” Beginning May 15, 2017, Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project (GLSRP) will be educating our youth on the necessity of Lakefront Safety.

During this time students will learn the following safety tips to practice when in and around the water:

Only swim when and where there is a lifeguard on duty; never swim alone.

Adults should constantly and actively watch their children.

Inexperienced or non-swimmers should wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket.

Parents or guardians of young children should be within an arm’s reach.

Children and adults should not engage in breath holding activities.

The Michigan City Fire Department is always concerned about the safety of our personnel and the safety of the public,” stated Fire Chief Randy Novak. “Drownings are 100% preventable, and we are committed to preventing all drowning’s in the City of Michigan City and adjacent communities. GLSRP is one of those water safety programs that we feel will assist us with reaching our goal of zero drownings.”

05/10/2018 – WNDU – Flip, Float, and Follow – U.S. Coast Guard stresses water safety as summer approaches – “Even the best of swimmers can get caught in something,” said BM2 Casey Johnson of Station St. Joseph. “For 2016, we had almost the highest number of fatalities and a lot of those came from paddle boarders or kayakers.”

05/04/2018 – Holland Sentinel – 3. Take proper precautions near the waterThere were 88 drownings in the Great Lakes last year, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. There have been six in 2018 already. Don’t be another statistic. Pay attention to red flag days, where it is not safe to enter the water; bring along flotation devices in case you tire while in the water; and, most importantly, watch out for one another. Be safe this season.

04/30/2018 – – Why you should wear your lifejacket if you paddle this spring: safety tips for chilly Lake Erie

First, put on your personal flotation device — and dress for the water temperature, which in Lake Erie Monday was about 38 degrees. Since 2010, 631 people have drowned in the Great Lakes, said Bob Pratt, director of education for the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. About 85 percent of them are men. And most drownings happen during this most dangerous time of the year, when frigid water incapacitates people who accidentally fall in. The U.S. Coast Guard on Saturday suspended the search for a man who reportedly fell off a boat in Sandusky Bay Friday night. “If you fall into 40-degree water without a life jacket on, your survival is measured in seconds — even if you’re a really good swimmer,” Pratt said. That’s because the body’s instant response to cold water is to gasp.

“This isn’t just a little gasp, like the kind you’d experience if somebody jumped out of a closet and scared you,” says the National Center for Cold Water Safety. It’s a huge gasp that totally fills your lungs… If your head is underwater when you gasp, you will immediately drown, and without the support of a PFD, you will head straight for the bottom.”

Men are less likely to take safety precautions, Pratt said. Hence, more drownings.

He urges kayakers, boaters and paddlers to wear their lifejackets, rather than just have them aboard. He compares lifejackets to seatbelts; you don’t put them on after you’re in a crash.

04/29/2018 – WSBT – Conference discusses ways to prevent drowning

04/24/2018 – Southend Tribune – New Buffalo votes to keep lifeguards this summer — “If you remove lifeguards, when seconds count help is going to be minutes away,’’ Benjamin said.

04/23/2018 – ABC 57 – New Buffalo votes to keep lifeguards this summer — The New Buffalo city council voted Monday to keep lifeguards on duty at least for one more summer.  Although the council voted to keep the lifeguards this summer, it will revisit the discussion in the fall to determine if the program will continue in the future.

04/23/2018 – WNDU – New Buffalo beach will keep lifeguards – Mayor Lou O’Donnell IV who said he thought the city was rushed into the idea of going guard less, and that the city should “step back and look at this more carefully.” After another summer of the status quo, the mayor said the subject should be revisited in the fall.

04/23/2018 – WSBT – New Buffalo leaders have decided to keep lifeguard program for the summer

04/19/2018 – Record Eagle – Free YMCA class encourages adults to test the waters

04/18/2018 – Water Safety in Racine – The City of Racine, Wisconsin is using the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project project’s illustrations, the Signs of Drowning and Flip Float and Follow. Pretty sweet

04/18/2018 – Harbor County News – Don’t balance budget on backs of swimmers

04/14/2018 – Southbend Tribune – New Buffalo considers eliminating lifeguards Official: Understaffing creates ‘false sense of safety

04/12/2018 – Dave Benjamin speaks out at New Buffalo City Council Meeting – Lifeguards save lives, are an asset, are first responders.

04/12/2018 – Nora Howe speaks out at New Buffalo City Council Meeting – Don’t balance the budget on the backs of swimmers.

04/12/2018 – Peter Carey Speaks out at New Buffalo at City Council Meeting – to oppose the termination of the beach lifeguards

04/12/2018 – ABC 57 – Open forum held to discuss the future of New Buffalo lifeguards — “We were given three minutes today to talk about the importance of lifeguards, only three minutes. We want people to understand that for a drowning victim three minutes is the world,” says David Benjamin of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.  A final decision on whether to keep the lifeguards on New Buffalo beaches will be made at a public hearing at the end of May.

04/12/2018 – ABC 57 – Open forum to discuss future of New Buffalo lifeguards to be held Thursday


04/12/2018 – WZZM – Michigan beach town of New Buffalo axing its lifeguards, despite drownings — Last year, 40 people drowned in Lake Michigan, down slightly from 46 a year earlier, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, a safety group that tracks drownings.


04/12/2018 – WNDU – New Buffalo City Council debates removal of lifeguards from budget — City leaders say they are simply not equipped to have well-trained lifeguards on duty at the New Buffalo beach. “I can’t get enough qualified lifeguards to apply,” said Richards. “I can’t employ enough qualified lifeguards, and we are creating the illusion of providing a lifeguard service; which I don’t think is fair to the community or to the beach users.”

04/12/2018 – WSBT – No lifeguards this summer? Future of New Buffalo lifeguard program in doubt — New Buffalo leaders are still debating the future of the city’s lifeguard program. They didn’t set any money aside in the budget for this summer or next. Some people are pretty unhappy about that.

Even on a beautiful day like today, they say the Great Lakes can be dangerous. Swimmers need to be protected from those dangers. But leaders with the city say that protection isn’t real, and is a liability. I can’t employ enough qualified lifeguards,” said David Richards, city manager. “We are creating the illusion of providing a lifeguard service, which I don’t think is fair to the community or to the beach users.”

Dave Benjamin with the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project says he’s seen lifeguards save lives in New Buffalo. He says the average beach-goer doesn’t know enough about water safety.

04/11/2018 – Detroit Free Press – Michigan beach town of New Buffalo axing its lifeguards, despite drownings — The city of New Buffalo wants to eliminate its dozen life guards due to liability, said city manager David Richards.

“It’s at the suggestion of our insurer, we’re eliminating life guards – at least proposing to eliminate life guards,” Richards said. Instead of lifeguards, he said, the beach would use existing flags and signs noting  that visitors are swimming at their own risk.

[SWIM AT YOUR OWN RISK is a Fallacy!]  “It’s not a matter of ‘if’ people will die from this fatal decision but ‘when,'” said Dave Benjamin, executive director of the Great Lakes Rescue Project. Since 2010, the Great Lakes Rescue Project has recorded 631 drownings in the Great Lakes.

“It’s risky to have lifeguards on duty. They give the impression that they are able to protect people when they go into the water and that’s not the case,” said David Richards, city manager.

Dave Benjamin with the Great Lakes Surf Rescue project couldn’t disagree more.

04/11/2018 – WSBT – New Buffalo leaders consider cutting lifeguard program – “Having no lifeguards at the beach makes it a lot less safe. On a long enough time line, I don’t believe it’s if we’ll have a drowning, it’s when will we have a drowning,” said Benjamin.

He says New Buffalo beach is unique because of the jetties and the boat channel. Benjamin says frequent winds from the north cause currents along the shore line.

“When they hit that pier, they go out and around that pier and one of the duties of lifeguards at that beach is to keep people from swimming in the water around that pier,” said Benjamin.


The city hasn’t made a final decision about the lifeguard program.  Richards says the council has special meetings Thursday and Friday.

“They will decide if they want to move forward with lifeguards, and if they do then we will schedule public meetings for the residents to come in and express their opinions,” said Richards.

04/04/2018 – Northwest Indiana Times – Water safety group to debut public safety announcement via Facebook Live — The public service announcement has a focus on the Great Lakes, but is applicable to all bodies of water. It’s being presented by the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project in partnership with the National Drowning Prevention Alliance, the Great Lakes Water Safety Consortium and the Matthew Kocher Foundation.

The announcement will include comments from National Drowning Prevention Alliance Lifesaver of the Year award winners Bob Pratt, of East Lansing, Michigan; Melissa Zirkle, of Ashtabula, Ohio; and John and Kathy Kocher, of Tinley Park. The film also features NDPA Community Lifesaver Award winner Dave Benjamin, of Homewood, and drowning survivors Evelyn Hernandez, of Chicago, and Jamie Racklyeft, of Ann Arbor.

04/04/2018 – Journal Review – Water safety group to debut public safety announcement today via Facebook Live

03/30/2018 – The Herald Argus – Flip, float and follow — Surf Rescue educator gives advice for surviving in rough water

03/29/2018 – The News Dispatch – Bob Pratt, executive director of education at the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, spent the past week providing water safety education to Michigan City Area Schools students, and opened each of their 16 different presentations with the quiz [which ended with, “What do you do if you are drowning?”. Less than 5% of the students can answer it. ]

“We do such a great job teaching kids about fire safety, tornado drills, earthquakes, school shooters; but the fact of the matter is that drowning kills more people than all of those things combined,” Pratt said. “Yet there’s so little education regarding water safety, and we live on the shores of one of the most beautiful lakes in the country.”

Erin Breen, a kindergarten teacher at Marsh Elementary School, said, “Living in a beach community, our kids need this training. ‘Flip, float and follow’ should be second nature to them the way ‘stop, drop and roll’ is. I appreciate the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project for coming to MCAS, because the more kids who are exposed to this information, the fewer water-related accidents we’ll have.”


Since 2010, 631 people have drowned in the five Great Lakes; and 295 of those drowned in Lake Michigan.

03/29/2018 – Herald Palladium – Silver Beach seeks lifeguards, offers safety info — Lifeguards at Silver Beach must be at least 16 years old and have current American Red Cross (or equivalent) lifeguard certification and CPR certification for adults, children, and infants.

Pay is $10.40 an hour. Applicants will have to pass a lifesaving test at a local indoor pool before being hired.

Silver Beach lifeguards receive additional training throughout the summer season from U.S. Coast Guard, local law enforcement, and Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, among others.

03/14/2018 – MSU – Great Lakes Water Safety 2018 – Conference to address dangerous currents that continue to take lives April 26-27, Evanston, IL

03/13/2018 – NWI Times – Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project educators stress water safety to kids, say specific techniques should be learned  LAKE STATION — Officials with the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project said schools today will conduct fire drills, tornado drills and active shooter drills, but there are no schools that conduct water safety education.  Yet, more school-age children may die from drowning each year in the United States than die in fires, tornadoes or even school shootings, they said.  Edison sixth-grader Dakota Sullivan said he can swim a little but not very well. He said the most important aspect of what he learned was that “floating is the key to survival.”

02/19/2018 – NWI Times – UPDATE: Flood warnings issued for Little Cal at Munster, Kankakee River — Despite the warm-up, shelf ice remained along the Lake Michigan shoreline, prompting a warning Monday from the nonprofit Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.  The nonprofit issued a warning that walking on shelf ice is extremely dangerous after it received reports of two groups of people walking on shelf ice near Gary’s shoreline last weekend. A person easily can fall into hidden holes in shelf ice, with little chance of climbing out.

02/19/2018 – WLS 7 – Dangerous shelf ice forms along Lake Michigan

02/17/2018 – MDJ Online – Teaching others to swim safely — Benjamin’s life changed forever Dec. 26, 2010, when he had a nonfatal drowning accident.

He had a bad wipe out, fell on his back and had the wind knocked out of him. Waves pushed him to the bottom [and he struggled] for about two minutes, before he could get back to the surface and cough up the water. It took him another 38 minutes to float and backstroke back to the shore.

Benjamin decided he wanted to teach others about water safety and drowning prevention, and [organized] a surfboard rescue class in June 2011 [led by Bob Pratt]. A wide audience of police officers, firefighters, everyday people and surfers showed up, and the project grew.

He now serves as a [co-founder] and executive director at the nonprofit Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, which has given 487 presentations since 2011. About 300 more presentations are scheduled this year, with 100 of those in Northwest Indiana, he said.

“Unfortunately, water safety and drowning survival is not common sense,” he said. “It’s a silent epidemic that gets very little proactive funding or attention.”

02/09/2018 – Petosky News – Water safety education important at any age

02/05/2018 – WWMT – Lake Michigan Winter Surfing

01/28/2018 – Lake Michigan Surfing – Mike Killion’s Monday Recap for the boyz

01/28/2018 – Lake Michigan Surfing – Gerri Matras Lanter Video

01/02/2018 – CTV News – ‘We must do better’: Group tracks 88 drownings on Great Lakes in 2017

01/01/2018 – PR – 88 Great Lakes Drownings in 2017; 625 Great Lakes Drownings since 2010 – Mom of drowning victim speaks out and helping schedule Water Safety Presentations for 2018

12/13/2017 – Michigan State University Extension, Michigan Sea Grant – Great Lakes waves can make lake viewing dangerous — Don’t get swept away this winter while sightseeing near the Great Lakes.

Drownings occur in the Great Lakes every year. According to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, at least 99 people drowned in the Great Lakes in 2016; 622 since 2010. Many of these deaths happen when people swimming end up in dangerous currents such as rip or structural-caused currents. Other drownings happen because of boating or kayaking accidents. And several deaths each year occur when people are blown or washed off breakwaters, docks, cliffs and other similar nearshore structures.

Preventing these drownings in the Great Lakes can be as easy as checking the weather report. Any month of the year there is the potential for high waves in the Great Lakes. If you are headed to a Great Lakes shoreline to walk out on a breakwater, climb some nearshore rocks, or jog along a lakeshore path, it’s important to know what the predicted wave and wind patterns will be for the day. If the waves and winds will be high, then stay away from these types of areas. Be aware that icy buildups can increase your risk of falling in even on relatively calm days. It’s better to watch waves and the water from a safe distance, than to risk losing it all.

11/24/2017 – Petoskey News – Preventing people from jumping from the pierheads on Lake Michigan is the best action to take.

Officials from Michigan State University Michigan Sea Grant Extension, Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project and the Great Lakes Water Safety Consortium also were in attendance. Each of them took time to express the importance of water safety and education.

Leland Township Supervisor Susan Och also spoke about a young person who drowned on Aug. 30, 2012, at Vans Beach after jumping from a pier similar to Charlevoix’s.  “I wish I wasn’t here. I wish that I didn’t know anything about structural currents, about rip currents,” Och said. “I was on the town board at the time (of the drowning) and that was the worst town board meeting ever … all of these seats are filled with people who want to know why you didn’t do something. There is a lot of regret.”

11/10/2017 – Green Bay Press Gazette – Blaming drowning victims is stupid, cruel

11/08/2017 – WBAY ABC 2 – State of Lake Michigan conference highlights importance of water safety education – One man says water safety education in schools could help stop what he calls a drowning epidemic in the Midwest. Since 2010, Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project statistics show there have been 622 drownings in the Great Lakes, 292 of them in Lake Michigan, with 41 Lake Michigan fatalities so far this year.

10/27/2017 – Petoskey News – Officials: Pier-jumping illegal, dangerous activity – About 1/3 of drownings are current-related – “People should be aware of the dangers in the Great Lakes,” Benjamin said. “Our goal is to prevent Great Lakes drownings through training, public preparedness, and public awareness.”

Since 2010, 267 people have drowned in Lake Michigan, nearly half of all 564 Great Lakes drowning deaths. The only year with more than 100 deaths on all Great Lakes was in 2012, with 101 drowning deaths.  “On average almost half — 47 percent — of all Great Lakes drownings happen on Lake Michigan,” Benjamin said.

Experts said the distinctive shape of the lake, which is 307 miles long with parallel, uninterrupted shores running north to south, makes it susceptible to dangerous currents. Lake Michigan is also the Great Lake with the sandiest shores, drawing more visitors and creating tides along sandbars that are deceptively strong and prone to risky currents.

“On all of the Great Lakes, Winds equals Waves and Waves equals Dangerous Currents,” Benjamin said. “The configuration of Lake Michigan as well as its residential population density and tourism population density creates a higher probability for accidents; i.e. simply said, the more people in and around the water, the more possibility for an accident to happen.”

Men, especially, are susceptible to drowning. Benjamin said 80 percent of drowning victims are male. “The psychology of men is that they’re more likely to take risks, to succumb to peer pressure and overestimate their abilities,” he said. “Boys don’t know that, moms don’t know that. Water safety is not common sense.”

Benjamin said, in his opinion, that’s where lifeguards are critical.  “Lifeguards are first responders and just as important as police and firefighters,” he said “We’re a huge advocate for lifeguards. One of the biggest objections to having lifeguards, is that there’s no funding,” Benjamin added. “But if Pure Michigan can spend more than $30 million a year to bring people to water, which has billions of dollars in return through tourism, there’s money out there.”

He said that according to the World Health Organization, drowning continues to be a neglected public health issue. “This isn’t just Michigan. Every state has a tourism budget to bring people to water. In our opinion, drowning should be treated like a public health issue,” he said.

09/26/2017 – Manistee News Advocate – Fall and winter season pose new hazards to fishermen – The danger of drowning doesn’t disappear with the summer season.  While some news outlets are claiming Lake Michigan saw fewer drowning deaths this past summer season than in 2016, Dave Benjamin, executive director of public relations and project management for Great Lakes Surf and Rescue Project, says people need to look at the big picture, not just during peak swimming months.

“We still have four more months to go,” Benjamin said. “Now what happens is, people may not see any more swimming drownings, but people might be washed off the pier, fall out of a boat or, as we get into December, fall through the ice while ice fishing. It could be kayakers, people on paddleboards or other recreational activities.” (Full Story here)

09/24/2017 – Holland Sentinel – ‘A much better summer:’ Drownings down from 2016 — Five people died in Ottawa County waters last year. This year, two drowned.

09/21/2017 – The News Dispatch – Surfing documentary to be held at Fire & Water – MICHIGAN CITY — A showing of “Southend: The Place Where I Go Surfing,” will be held at Fire & Water, 6 on the Lake, Michigan City (in Washington Park), on Friday at 6 p.m. A reception will be held at 5:30 p.m., and a question and answer session will be held at 7:10 p.m.

09/20/2017 – On Milwaukee – Our dear Lake Michigan is the deadliest of the Great Lakes [NOTE: The drowning stats listed in this article are outdated at 537 Great Lakes Drownings since 2010. The updated stats are 612 Great Lakes Drownings since 2010.]

09/10/2017 – The Cutoff News – Surfing the Region: Filmmaker brings documentary to NWI.  “Southend: The Place Where I Go Surfing” was screened Sept. 14 at The Towle Theater in Hammond and will be screened again Sept. 22 at Fire and Water At Washington Park in Michigan City.

09/08/2017 – Post-Tribune – Sand, surf season ends with no drownings at lakefront parks. Note: There was a mix-up of some of the statistical information in the story.
“46” was the 2016 Lake Michigan Drownings yearend total.
If we we’re comparing Labor Day 2016 with Labor Day 2017…
By Labor Day 2016 there were 36 Lake Michigan Drownings.
By Labor Day 2017 there were 33 Lake Michigan Drownings.

09/05/2017 – Associated Press – Water Safety Group Finds Fewer Lake Michigan Drownings

A water safety nonprofit group has found that the number of drownings decreased this swim season on Lake Michigan compared with last year.

09/04/2017 – Chicago Sun-Times – 33 Lake Michigan drownings so far this year; down from 36 last year – Thirty-three people have drowned in Lake Michigan so far this year, compared with 36 in the same period last year. Three bodies found in the lake this year are not yet confirmed as drownings, said David Benjamin, executive director of the safety group.

A man was pulled from Lake Michigan on Friday morning near the 31st Street beach, but his cause of death hasn’t yet been confirmed nor has he been identified.

09/02/2017 – WZZM – 68 people have drowned in the Great Lakes in 2017

09/02/2017 – WISN ABC – Surfer helps save man from rough Lake Michigan At Bradford Beach

09/01/2017 – WNEM – Report: 68 drownings reported in Great Lakes this year

09/01/2017 – WLNS – Great Lakes drownings prompt warning for holiday swimmers

08/31/2017 – ABC 10 & 13 – August Was Deadliest Month So Far on Lake Superior in 2017 – Five people drowned in Lake Superior in August, with four drownings in a 2-week span.

08/30/2017 – Harbor County News – Summer of Saving Swimmers: New Buffalo lifeguards reflect on busy season NEW BUFFALO — The lifeguard crew at New Buffalo’s public beach has been very busy this summer. “My sister and I have rescued 17 people,” said 21-year-old Emily Richards while setting up for another day of guarding the beach on Friday, Aug. 25.

Emily Richards said the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project organization (including Bob Pratt and Dave Benjamin) has worked with the New Buffalo lifeguards on water safety issues such as board rescue techniques (which she has since used in actual rescues).  “It’s fun to learn from people that have the same passion for lifeguarding that we do,” she said.

08/18/2017 – Detroit Free Press – Great Lakes drownings reach 600 since 2010 – While many folks in Michigan are turning their thoughts from summer days at the beach to backpacks and school supplies, there are still several weeks of warm weather for families to enjoy at the lake.

But that comes with a special warning as the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project releases the latest drowning statistics for the Great Lakes.

Since 2010 there have 600 drownings in the five Great Lakes. According to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, on average almost half of all Great Lakes drownings happen in Lake Michigan. They released their latest report Thursday.

The good news is that drownings are down this year over last year at about this time. By Sept. 2, of 2016, 73 drowning deaths had occurred. We are two weeks away from that date and so far this year the number stands at 63. While that is a step in the right direction, one life lost to drowning is too many. Just last week a father and daughter died after being rescued from dangerous currents in Lake Superior.  Experts say too often swimmers overestimate their abilities and underestimate dangerous conditions.

08/13/2017 – WBBM’s At Issue: Drowning & Water Safety – Every year dozens of people will drown while swimming in Lake Michigan and the other Great Lakes preventable deaths in most cases. WBBM’s Mike Krauser talks with Dave Benjamin, Executive Director at the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project about the risk of drowning and water safety.

08/11/2017 – My Sheboygan – Sheboygan resident and surfer Larry Williams talks about water safety.

08/08/2017 – Detroit Free Press – Illinois boy, 4, dies days after being pulled from Lake Michigan – In 2016, 98 people drowned in the Great Lakes – ranging in age from about 9 to 75, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, a nonprofit that tracks incidents and spreads awareness. The number nearly doubled the previous year, and was the worst for drownings since 2012.
08/05/2017 – Northwest Indiana Times – 7 ways to avoid drowning in Northwest Indiana

08/05/2017 – CBS 2 Chicago – Hammond Woman, Kaitlynn Boswinkle, 24,  Found Dead in Gary’s Marquette Beach

08/01/2017 – Harbor County News – Matthew Ramirez, M-4 – a 4-year-old boy ‘fighting for his life’ after being pulled from Lake Michigan at Warren Dunes State Park on Tuesday afternoon. The preliminary investigation revealed several children were playing in the water and family members believed he had exited the water and returned to the beach with other family members.

07/31/2017 – WBEZ Public Radio – The GLSRP’s Dave Benjamin was be on WBEZ’s Morning Shift, 91.5 FM, Monday to discuss the current Great Lakes drowning statistics and Great Lakes Water Safety with host, Jenn White.

07/31/2017 – The Journal Times – Drowned teen’s life goal ‘was to help people’ — Water Safety Tips: Only one third of drownings that occur are due to dangerous currents, according to Dave Benjamin Executive Director of Public Relations for the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, a non-profit based in Illinois that educates school children about the dangers of water. “Something happens in the water that causes panic. When you are struggling in water over your head we recommend you flip over on your back, float and then follow the safest path out of the water,” Benjamin said. “When you are on your back try to cough to get the water out and calm yourself down.” Benjamin said flotation is the key — only five out of 589 reported Great Lakes drowning victims wore life jackets. “You have a better chance of survival in the Great Lakes if you have a life jacket. People don’t use them because they’re not fashionable, and restrictive or because they overestimate their true swimming ability,” Benjamin said.

07/29/2017 – NBC 5 – Brandt Miller, Flip, Float, and Follow & Weather App

07/28/2017 – Detroit Free Press – Lifeguards are the first reponders on the beach!

07/28/2017 – Detroit Free Press – 5 teens rescued from Lake Michigan, 3 hospitalized — This year, 49 people have drowned in the Great Lakes, at least 22 of them in Lake Michigan, where hidden rip currents are known to pull people away from beach areas, causing them to panic. In 2016, 98 people drowned in the Great Lakes – ranging in age from about 9 to 75, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, a nonprofit that tracks incidents and spreads awareness. The number nearly doubled the previous year, and was the worst for drownings since 2012.

07/28/2017 – WLS 7 – Life threatening waves, rip currents lead to swim bans – The latest statistics from the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project report 49 drownings in the Great Lakes so far this year.

07/28/2017 – NBC 5 – ‘Stay Out of the Water’: Warning to Chicago-Area Beachgoers Extended

07/25/2017 – Ozaukee Press – Port Washington helps prepare beachgoers for possible emergencies with water safety cards

07/19/2017 – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – The Great Lakes are on track to see over 100 drownings this year, with half of those in Lake Michigan, said Dave Benjamin of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, a nonprofit group that collects data on drowning incidents.  For the first time in five years, lifeguards are not on duty at Atwater Park beach due to a shortage of lifeguard applications received by the Milwaukee County Parks Department. Signs at the park advise visitors to swim at their own risk.  But it is unclear if a lifeguard would have made a difference in Sareyi’s drowning. In the past, summer shifts for Atwater Park lifeguards were from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. And a lifeguard for the public beach would not have been able to see the break wall on private property from which Sareyi jumped, Tyke said.

07/19/2017 – South Bend Tribune – Paddle in awe of Great Lakes — in Michiana and up north – The nonprofit Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project reports 45 drownings in the Great Lakes so far this year. None of the victims wore life jackets. Granted, some fell from shore rather than a boat. But, out of the 582 drownings since 2010, only five wore life jackets — all of whom died because they were in really cold water for a prolonged time, says Bob Pratt, the project’s director of education.  It doesn’t do you any good if your life jacket just sits in the boat. When you need it, Pratt says, it would be like trying to fasten your seatbelt during an accident. And on a stand-up paddle board, he says, attach the leash to your ankle, which helps you to retrieve the board after you fall off.

07/12/2017 – WCMU Public Radio – 2017 may be deadliest year on Great Lakes – – “It’s important to understand what drowning looks like for two reasons, one so you can spot someone who’s in dire need of flotation, and two if you ever find yourself struggling in water and doing the signs of frowning you stop doing the signs of drowning and flip, float and follow.”

07/09/2017 – WTMJ 4 — 414Ward – How to prevent drownings

07/03/2017 – UpNorthLive – Your Health Matters: Increase drowning awareness

07/03/2017 – NBC 5 – Man Dies Trying to Rescue His Nephew in Water Near 63rd Street Beach

06/30/2017 – MLIVE – East Grand Rapids working to prevent drowning with SwimEGR

06/30/2017 – Northwest Indiana Times – NWI surfers featured in film ‘Southend’

06/30/2017 – The Detroit News – Michigan Rescue: Reduce Drownings

06/28/2017 – WJR News Talk 760 a.m. – Dave Benjamin of the Great Lakes Surf Project talks to Paul W. Smith about the dangers of Lake Michigan rip [currents] tides. 6-28-17

06/25/2017 – Detroit Free Press – How even good swimmers are drowning in Lake Michigan

06/22/2017 – The Star Beacon – Conneaut Township Park offers life-saving gear at its popular beach

06/21/2017 – ABC 7 – Floating water park set to open on Lake Michigan in Whiting, Indiana — The $300,000 floating playground is a result of a joint venture between the city and the private company.  The beach also plans to have kayak and paddleboard rentals.  With the new attraction set to open this weekend, Bob Pratt and Dave Benjamin of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project spent the day teaching summer campers and kids about proper water safety.

06/21/2017 – NBC 5 Chicago – New Floating Water Park Emphasizes Safety in Indiana – Lake Michigan’s first floating water park will open in Whiting, IN this weekend, but there’s more than just fun to be had at the attraction, as educating the public about water safety is at the top of the agenda. NBC 5’s Regina Waldroup has the remarkable story.

06/19/2017 – WSBT 22 – Berrien County holding water rescue and emergency drill at Silver Beach – ST. JOSEPH, Mi. — It’s the time of year when thousands of you head to the beach. According to the Great Lakes Surf and Rescue Project, 2017 has been the deadliest year for the start to drowning season.

Lifeguards there are working hard to keep swimmers safe. Lifeguards say they need practice to make sure they can get you out of trouble.

They teamed up with the sheriff’s department, the Coast Guard, and EMS, all ready to save lives.

06/19/2017 – WZZM – VERIFY: Is Lake Michigan the deadliest Great Lake?  Is Lake Michigan the deadliest Great Lake or just the most frequented?

We verified what is true using information from the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, a nonprofit that tracks drowning statistics and trains people in water safety, and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Thirty people have drowned in the Great Lakes during 2017 and 16 of those incidents happened in Lake Michigan. Dave Benjamin from Great Lakes Rescue Project explained that their organization is confident in labeling Lake Michigan as the deadliest.

He said they attribute this to the accessibility (beach access), population density in surrounding cities and the lake’s configuration (strong currents). Lake Michigan is only the third largest Great Lake but it is surrounded by densely populated cities, like Chicago.

Don Olson from the DNR said that the most visited parks are along Lake Michigan, and that state parks surrounding other Great Lakes have less visitors.  We can verify that Lake Michigan is the most frequented of the Great Lakes and because of that it is also the deadliest.

06/18/2017 – ABC 57 – Michigan Lake named deadliest Great Lake – Over half of the drownings in the Great Lakes so far this year have occurred in Lake Michigan. This is Michigan Lake’s highest death count this time of year since 2012.

06/17/2017 – UpNorthLive – Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore hosts first water safety expo It’s important to know the basics of water safety when out on the beaches this summer.

To help educate the public, the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore hosted the first Water Adventure Expo on Saturday.

The expo event was inspired by, Tyler Spink. In September 2016, Tyler, 21, went kayaking without a life jacket in Lake Michigan and never returned.

06/11/2017 – WLNS 6 – Staying safe around water as summer approaches — “It’s shaping up to be a very hot summer and unfortunately that means that we’ll have an increase in the number of drownings,” says Bob Pratt, Director of Education at Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.

Pratt says, more than 20 people in Michigan have died after drowning this year alone. Those numbers are being updated almost daily.

“The cold water plays a part, the wind and waves cause a part, so unfortunately it turns out to be a tragic situation,” says Pratt.

Pratt says, drowning is the leading cause of accidental deaths in children ranging in age from 1 to 4. And although it’s portrayed on television as a dramatic, long lasting incident, Pratt says, drowning can happen in the blink of an eye.

“While there may be a little bit of splashing, lifeguards call it climbing the ladder, it will be this vertical motion of just trying to keep their head above the surface of the water, and especially with children it may only last a matter of second,” says Pratt.

He says, there are a few simple steps you can take to protect yourself and those around, while still having fun in the sun.

For example, you can designate a “water watcher,” who will keep an eye on children at all times while in the water. Also making sure everyone is wearing a life vest.

“Of the 562 fatal drownings that we’ve reported since 2010, only 5 of them were wearing life jackets… That’s less than 1%,” says Pratt.

It’s called a life jacket, for a reason. Pratt says, wearing one can decrease your risk of drowning. He says it all boils down to this, respect the water and understand you need to be prepared for it.

06/11/2017 – Lansing State Journal – Bob Pratt, the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project’s director, told the State Journal the Lansing man was 27 years old. The man’s death, Pratt said, marks the 560th fatal drowning on the Great Lakes since 2010.

Pratt said nearly half of all drowning deaths take place on Lake Michigan, a powerful body of water that’s often underestimated.

“It’s really more of an inland sea than just a lake,” Pratt said. “It has currents; it has waves; it has wind.”

06/11/2017 – CBS  Chicago – At least three people drowned in Lake Michigan this weekend, including a woman pulled from the water near Loyola Beach on Saturday, prompting a warning about the dangers of swimming when the water is still dangerously cold.

While the weather hasn’t been really warm until recently, that hasn’t stopped people from going into the lake, oftentimes unprepared.

Dave Benjamin, executive director of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, said at least 16 people have drowned in Lake Michigan so far this year, more than all the other Great Lakes combined.

Benjamin said 46 people drowned in Lake Michigan last year, one of the worst years for the lake since the group started tracking drownings in 2010. With swimming season just getting started, this year could match that total.

“Right now, we are on a record pace to match last year,” he said.

06/11/2017 – PR – Drownings continue to rise — Lake Michigan leading the statistics — Hot weekend, strong south winds can cause hazards — Especially with beach toys — GREAT LAKES, USA – The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project (GLSRP) announces its current drowning statistics. In 2017, the GLSRP is tracking 25 Great Lakes drownings.

06/08/2017 – Michigan Radio NPR – Holland tries new approach to warn people about dangerous lake conditions — The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project reports that 98 people drowned in the Great Lakes last year, the most since 2012. Currents caused by wind or structures like piers can make swimming in the lakes dangerous.

06/07/2017 – UpNorthLive – Benzie County nurse, Barbara Smith, recognized as hometown health hero — She was awarded for her water safety advocacy efforts at the State Capitol during public health week in April.

06/05/2017 – Fox News Chicago – Whiting Open Water Surf Lifeguard In-service Training.

06/06/2017 – ABC 57 – Training session for Lake Michigan lifeguards – Lake Michigan lifeguards participated in an “open water surf lifeguard” training session Tuesday, June 6th in Michigan City. The training focused on the dangerous currents in the Great Lakes, rescue techniques, and CPR.

“Water safety is really important, since 2010 there’s been 559 fatal drownings on the five Great Lakes, typically almost half, 47%, happened on Lake Michigan and about half of those happen here at the south end of Lake Michigan so this is one of the most dangerous waters in the country,” said Director of Education for Great Lakes surf rescue project, Bob Pratt.

The training was led by the Great Lakes surf rescue project and the purpose of the training was to prevent deaths on the lake this summer. 2016 was the deadliest year on the lake.

06/07/2017 – Northwest Indiana Times – Training to combat drowning in the Region – Here in Northwest Indiana, drowning is always top of mind for lifeguards, especially those who trained on Tuesday morning at Washington Park beach in Michigan City, and on Monday at Whihala Beach in Whiting, as part of the Open Water Surf Lifeguard In-Service Training Program. The training was conducted by the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.

“There is a huge difference between pool and open water training. In a pool you have 100 percent visibility, warm water, consistent water depths and [the pool is a contained area]. In open water surf there are winds, waves, dangerous currents, drop-offs and holes, temperature fluctuations of 10 to 20 degrees in pockets, and thousands of people coming and going,” he said.

Using rescue boards, rescue cans, and rescue tubes, some 36 area lifeguards participated in [Monday and] Tuesday’s training.

Mo Hakim, one of the head lifeguards at Washington Park, realized the dangers of Lake Michigan firsthand last summer when he rescued a victim who dived off of the pier, even though this is forbidden.  “Many deaths in the Great Lakes happen off of these structures,” he said, pointing to the pier, “and last summer was probably one of the roughest in a few years. I pulled a kid out who was under for 10 minutes. I dove down and got him off of the bottom of the lake, got him on a Coast Guard boat, and we transported him, and he’s alive today.” He said he hopes that this summer will be safer as people become educated to the dangers of Lake Michigan and Tuesday’s training helps lifeguard teams to properly respond.

Jacob Breault, a rookie lifeguard with Indiana Dunes State Park, says the training will no doubt help him this summer.  “This is a lot different than a pool. You get the experience of a real rescue on wavy days,” he said.

06/07/2017 – Northwest Indiana Times – Gallery: Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project lifeguard training

06/06/2017 – MLIVE – 5 Lake Michigan beaches could have dangerous conditions today — There have been 20 drownings in the Great Lakes already this year, including 12 deaths in Lake Michigan, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project tracker.

06/06/2017 – ABC 7 – Lake Michigan beach hazard warning, swim advisory in effect Tuesday — “With a possibility of a closure on Wednesday, or maybe yellow flags on Wednesday, which means people allowed in the water up to a certain depth,” said Nick Kalwinski, Whihala Beach supervisor.  There have been 20 drownings in the Great Lakes so far this year. Ten of those were in Lake Michigan.

06/05/2017 – ABC 7 – Weather service warns of high waves at Chicago beaches — It was training day for lifeguards at Whihala Beach in Whiting, Ind., where the strong winds and choppy waters actually created the ideal conditions for water safety education.

In addition to getting in the water, the lifeguards-in-training learned about the risk of drowning.  David Benjamin with the Great Lakes Rescue Project, said drowning is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S.

Already in 2017 there have been 20 drownings in the Great Lakes, and 10 of those were in Lake Michigan.”On average, half of all Great Lakes drownings happen in Lake Michigan, and then half of Lake Michigan drownings happen in the south end of Lake Michigan,” Benjamin said.

Keeping in mind three simple steps if you find yourself in dangerous water can be a life saver. Just remember: Flip, float and follow.

“You flip on your back and you float – float to keep your head above water, float to conserve your energy, and float to calm yourself down from the fear and panic of drowning – and then follow the safest path out of the water.  According to Benjamin, 66 percent of all drowning victims are good swimmers.

06/05/2017 – Lakeshore Public Radio – Don’t become another drowning statistic

06/03/2017 – The News Dispatch – In brief – Lake Michigan lifeguards to participate in MC training — Indiana Lake Michigan Lifeguards will be participating in one of these two Open Water Surf Lifeguard In-Service training sessions, Monday in Whiting, Indiana, or Tuesday in Michigan City.

The in-service training will focus on the worldwide drowning epidemic, how it relates to the Great Lakes region, Great Lakes dangerous currents, open water surf rescue techniques, and the latest water resuscitation CPR techniques (i.e. it will explain why Compression Only CPR is inappropriate for drowning victims).

The project is being headed by the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, with Lifeguards out of Whiting, Chesterton, and Michigan City. It is sponsored by ArcelorMittal.

The Michigan City training will be held 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at North Point Pavilion, 6 On the Lake, Michigan City.

06/02/2017 – Holland Sentinel – City of Holland warns against swimming on red flag days at state beaches – Lake Michigan is the deadliest of the Great Lakes, causing nearly half of all Great Lakes fatalities in 2016. Forty-six people died on Lake Michigan last year, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.

06/01/2017 – Wood TV – Holland groups create red flag video aimed at curbing drownings – A record number of drownings were recorded in the Great Lakes last year, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. The group says this year, there have been 20 possible drownings so far.

05/30/2017 – My North – Splash into Summer at the Sleeping Bear Dunes Water Adventure Expo

05/29/2017 – Chicago Tribune – Lake Michigan brings both beauty and danger to summer season – Benjamin and Pratt partnered with city officials, lifeguards and sponsor ArcelorMittal to host the event, which offered lessons similar to those the pair present to audiences all around the Great Lakes region.

05/27/2017 – Pantagraph – Don’t blame Darwin, says anti-drowning project leader — A director of a group working to prevent drowning in the Great Lakes area says stigmatizing drowning hampers such efforts. “People blame the victim, blame the parent or caretaker or blame Darwinism,” said Dave Benjamin, executive director of public relations and project management for the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. But doing that gives people a false sense of security that it wouldn’t happen to them or their loved ones, said Benjamin.

In fact, it can happen to anyone and it can happen quickly. Part of the problem, according to Benjamin, is that people don’t know what they don’t know. Few people know that swimming ability alone might not be enough in a water emergency, he said.

05/26/2017 – Marquette Mining Journal – Officials talk water safety ahead of summer season – – According to statistics gathered by the GLSRP, 98 people drowned in the Great Lakes in 2016 — a 78 percent increase over the previous year.

“It’s going to continue to be a leading cause of accidental death until we start to look at the bigger picture,” said Benjamin. “There’s a huge disconnect. Information is not being delivered effectively or efficiently to the public.”

According to the American Red Cross, 54 percent of Americans do not have the basic swimming abilities to save their own lives in a water emergency.  That statistic is based on a controlled setting, such as a pool, said Benjamin. But when you add in wind, waves, dangerous currents and cold water temperatures, that percentage would likely be higher.

Like the widely known “stop, drop and roll” technique used when clothing catches fire, Benjamin said everyone should know “flip, float and follow.”  “If you want to live, you have to stay at the surface of the water and continue breathing,” he said. “If you can’t survive the initial drowning experience, you’re not going to make it out.”  If in a water emergency, swimmers should flip over onto their back, float to keep their head above water, calm themselves down and conserve energy, and then follow the current to assess which way it’s flowing.  Then, either swim perpendicular to the flow until reaching safety, or continue floating and try to signal for help if too tired to swim.

Benjamin and Bob Pratt, GLSRP’s executive director of education, are currently traveling throughout the Midwest to provide in-school presentations on water safety.  They believe it’s the best approach to spreading information quickly, having completed more than 450 presentations in seven of the eight Great Lakes states.  “They have fire drills, tornado drills, shooting drills and even earthquake drills in school,” said Benjamin. “But it’s more likely school-aged children will die from drowning. Why is there not water safety curriculum?”

With these presentations, as well as additional outreach, training, public awareness and preparedness efforts, GLSRP hopes to reduce the number of Great Lakes drownings.  “It’s really simple. It’s not rocket science. It’s just bullet-pointed information that is not being delivered,” he said. “If people knew, they would be much safer and it would cause a huge decrease in drowning deaths.”

The stigma surrounding drowning, as well as the lack of industry-backing and scarce funding, also contribute to the epidemic, said Benjamin.  “One of the main contributors is the stigma — when a drowning happens, from a public point of view, people blame the victim, blame the parents or blame it on Darwinism,” he said. “It gives the public a false sense of security that drowning wouldn’t happen to them, that it only happens to stupid people. It’s false. People think drowning happens to other people, until they become the other people.

05/26/2017 – Pantagraph – Experts urge safety on, near water – One problem is people don’t know what drowning looks like, says Dave Benjamin of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.  It’s not like the movies, with a lot of splashing and yelling, he said. Instead, a person’s mouth might be barely above water level, with their head tilted back and body vertical, making ladder-climbing motions as they try to stay above water, explained Benjamin.

Benjamin said, “Learning how to swim isn’t enough.”  Learning survival skills in a water emergency should start with children in school, he said.  “’Flip-float-follow’ is the ‘stop-drop-and-roll’ of water safety,” said Benjamin, with the emphasis on float. He said people should flip to face up and float to control breathing, calm themselves and find an escape route to follow.

05/24/2017 – Tinley Junction – Tinley Park couple spreads water safety message in memory of son – Tinley Park residents John and Kathy Kocher, teaching water safety and giving back to their community is more than just a passion for them; it is their mission.  The Kochers’ only child, Matt, drowned in Lake Michigan while at camp in 2013 at the age of 15, pulled from the shore by a rip current. That defining moment in the Kochers’ lives was the moment they knew they had to do something about water safety and drowning prevention, Kathy said.

05/17/2017 – Chicago Sun-Times – Balmy temps and frigid Lake Michigan a lethal mix — Tianna Hollinside, 13, and Juan Cornelio, 23, may have never known what hit them before they joined the ranks of Chicagoans who died too young.

But it wasn’t a bullet that killed them. It was cold water.  Hollinside and Cornelio both drowned Tuesday in separate swimming accidents on Chicago’s north lakefront, lured to their deaths by balmy 80-degree-plus air temperatures that belied a fatally frigid Lake Michigan.  Swimming may not even be the right word for what happened…

05/17/2017 – The News Dispatch – Staying safe in the Great Lakes – MICHIGAN CITY — “Ten people per day in the United States drown. Drowning is a huge, huge problem.”  That was the sobering message Barker Middle School students received at the beach this week via Bob Pratt, the executive director of education for the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.

The Lake Michigan Water Safety Presentations were a collaboration between the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project the city of Michigan City, the Michigan City Fire Department and the Michigan City Parks and Recreation Department lifeguards.

05/17/2017 – PR – Memorial Water Safety Presentation or 2015 Lake Michigan Drowning Victim as Lake Michigan drownings are up 57% over 2016

05/16/2017 – PR – CRITICAL UPDATE: Great Lakes Drownings Increase; Water Safety Presentation Wednesday on the beach in Michigan City, Indiana.

05/15/2017 – ABC 57 – As summer nears, experts warn about dangers of Lake Michigan — Life-saving lessons along the lake shore. Last year there were 46 drownings in Lake Michigan plus 6 listed in Critical Condition. To date in 2017, there have been 9 drowning in Lake Michigan.
05/15/2017 – WSBT 22 – Students learn beach safety in Michigan City

05/14/2017 – PR – Michigan City Students Heading to the Beach this week for Lake Michigan Water Safety Presentations – The GLSRP is partnering with the City of Michigan City, the Michigan City Fire Department, and Michigan City Parks and Recreation Department lifeguards to perform Lake Michigan water safety presentations for Barker Middle School students.

05/11/2017 – Laporte County Life – City of Michigan City Shares Swimming Safety Tips – making their beaches SAFER!

05/07/2017 – PR – Lake Michigan Water Safety Presentation for Valparaiso Swim Club and the general public as Great Lakes drownings continue to rise in 2017

05/07/2017 – PR – National Lifesaver Award Winners Continue Efforts with Chicagoland Water Safety School Presentations this week – As Great Lakes drownings continue to rise in 2017

05/01/2017 – infoSuperior – Statistics Show Spike in Lake Superior Drownings — What if rescuers didn’t have to enter the water? Basically a remote controlled life ring, or drone, that could be kept at swimming beaches, on board vessels for man overboard situations or in emergancy response vehicles for cases involving potential drownings.

04/29/2017 – PR – Come on out today for a Lake Michigan Water Safety Presentation at the Green Gary – Earth Day Celebration – Lake Michigan Drownings were up 84% last year over 2015; Tracking 14 Great Lakes drownings in 2017

04/26/2017 – Liquid Adventuring – Drowning – It’s Not Just for Stupid People

04/23/2017 – Journal Sentinel – With Great Lakes drownings spiking, rescuers look to education, technology

04/19/2017 – Tinley Park Patch – Kocher’s Receive National Life Saving Award

04/19/2014 – CBS 2 Chicago – Lake Michigan Drownings Spike In 2016 – The number of drownings in Lake Michigan spiked 84 percent in 2016, compared with the previous year, according to a water safety advocacy group.

04/18/2017 – PR – Lake Michigan Drownings up 84% in 2016 over 2015; GLSRP presenting at the Great Lakes Water Safety Consortium’s “Great Lakes Water Safety Conference” Thursday and Friday, April 20 and 21, at the Maywood Environmental Park, 3615 Mueller Rd. in Sheboygan, WI.

04/14/2017 – PR – Tinley Park Parents Win National Drowning Prevention Alliance “Lifesaver of the Year” Award for water safety advocacy after son’s Lake Michigan drowning – Announces Illinois Water Safety School Presentations May 8 – 12.

04/04/2017 – Stand Up Paddle the World Radio – Bob Pratt is serious about drowning, very serious.  As an EMT and Lifeguard, he knows that drowning is preventable, especially in the sport of Stand Up Paddle Boarding.  In fact, Bob believes the stand up paddle industry has a golden opportunity to introduce life preserver and leash safety early on in this exploding sport.  Bob Pratt and The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project are both very serious about water safety and drowning and give many lifesaving tips in the interview.

04/01/2017 – News Dispatch – Staying Safe in the Water – MICHIGAN CITY — Flip. Float. Follow. Those three words were heard throughout Michigan City Area Schools this past week with hopes that they will be remembered by area students as well as “Stop, drop and roll” has. “If you ask anyone anywhere in the United States, ‘What do you do if your clothes catch on fire?’ they will tell you, ‘Stop, drop and roll.’ But ask them ‘What do you do if you are drowning?’ and you’ll most often get silence and blank stares,” explained Dave Benjamin, executive director of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project (

03/28/2017 – WSBT – Lake Michigan drownings up 84% in 2016; 19 Great Lakes Water Safety presentations in 9 Michigan City schools this week

03/27/2017 – Northwest Indiana Times – Lake Michigan was deadliest Great Lake last year – Water Safety School Presentations this week in Michigan City

03/26/2017 – PR – Great Lakes Drownings up 78% Last Year over 2015; Water safety presentations this week for Michigan City

03/20/2017 – UpNorthLive – Increase in drownings brings high need for water safety education

03/19/2017 – PR – 2016 Great Lakes Drownings increased 78% over 2015; Water Safety School Presentations this week in Benzie County, MI

03/16/2017 – Record Eagle – Great Lakes Surf Rescue teaches safety to water-loving residents – If “stop, drop and roll” can be accepted parts of childhood education, why not “flip, float and follow?” asks the founder and executive director of Great Lakes Surf Rescue.

03/06/2017 – MSU & MI Sea Grant – How can we stop drownings in the Great Lakes? Water safety conference to address ways to improve safety, education and more – Learn why drownings in the Great Lakes were up 78 percent last year and what you can do about it. Join the Great Lakes Water Safety Consortium for compelling presentations by and networking opportunities with experts in water safety, risk communication, lifeguarding, beach safety, and hazard mitigation. Speakers from the Great Lakes Sea Grant NetworkNational Weather ServiceGreat Lakes Surf Rescue Project, universities, and many others will share the latest science, techniques, and technologies. Upon completion of the conference, attendees will leave with new strategies, insights, and know-how to save lives in their communities and the best ways to respond in the event of a tragedy.

Register by March 20 for the early-bird rate of $49 ($59 after). Sponsorship opportunities are also available.

2016 GLSRP Media Mentions

2015 GLSRP Media Mentions

2014 GLSRP Media Mentions

2013 GLSRP Media Mentions

2012 GLSRP Media Mentions

2011 GLSRP Media Mentions



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