Lakeville man drowns at Lions Park Beach trying to save his two kids
ST. JOSEPH, Mich. - Powerful waves and strong rip currents turning deadly in Berrien county. Three drowning incidents reported along the Lake Michigan coastline in one night.
One of the victims, identified as 44-year-old Brent Coursen, losing his own life, saving his two children.
Police say this serves as a grim reminder, to always take potentially-dangerous lake conditions and flag warnings seriously.
“Last night after 8 p.m. Our department was dispatched to lions park beach for 4 individuals in Lake Michigan struggling with the rip currents. When we got on the scene a surfboarder had rescued two of the individuals. A father was in the water trying to rescue his two children," Steve Neubecker, the Director of Public Safety in St. Joseph said.
Brent Coursen losing his life at Lions Park Beach in St. Joseph Thursday night.
The Lakeville man, identified by friends, drowned while trying to save his 17-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter caught in an undertow.
“He had scars on his chest, the young man from getting roughed up in the water and was very upset obviously and at that point, the rescue boat was coming down," Joan Guilfoyl, one resident said. "It was very hard, it was very hard to see.”
Unfortunately, situations like this, aren’t uncommon along Lake Michigan's shoreline.
“There’s been 21 drownings in Berrien County over the last 15 years. When the wind is blowing towards the shoreline the rip currents are the strongest. The waves at 3 feet height. These individuals were not over the head in water, they were up to their chest in water and got swept away. Be careful of the water, it’s taken way too many loved ones in this community," Neubecker said.
A warning about how easy it can be to get swept away in an instant.
“It’s always very sad and unfortunate," Jamie Peters, another resident said. "It’s a big body of water. It’s dangerous. If you don’t understand it’s strength or respect it you could be in trouble. Wish it didn’t happen.”
"People need to just remember that Lake Michigan is a serious lake. Very powerful water is very powerful and you can’t always see those things that can pull your feet out from under you, drag you," Guilfoyl said.
Although there are yellow and red flags waving at larger beaches notifying swimmers of the conditions, smaller beaches like lions park do not have such indications.
“During red flag days, we have special patrols going up and down our beaches telling people to get out of the water. There’s no law on it. Some people refuse to get out of the water, others respect our authority," Neubecker said. “I’m concerned for the month of August and that we’re going to see other drownings out in our community."
Now, this is the second drowning at Lions Park Beach just this month and officials just want to keep reminding visitors to be weary.
“What I ask people to do is be careful. Look at the weather forecast. If the wind is blowing at the shore, there are 3 ft waves, stay out of the water. Be safe. Even if it’s a nice day, you never know what could happen on Lake Michigan. This is one of the most, the most dangerous of the 5 great lakes for drownings," Neubecker said.
Friends tell me Coursen was always that kind of person to help and serve, he was a wonderful man who loved Jesus and his family.
If you want to help the Coursen family, click here for their GoFundMe.