Mother creates petition to bring lifeguards back to South Haven

SOUTH HAVEN, Mich. – With red flag warnings posted from Indiana to Southwest Michigan, waves on Lake Michigan continue to put swimmers in danger. It’s been a treacherous beach season on the Great Lakes. So far in 2019, there have been 19 drownings in Lake Michigan.

Despite multiple instances of drowning, swimmers still continue to wade in red flag waters.

ABC57 learned Monday a 25-year-old man is now dead after being pulled from Washington Park Beach in Michigan City after swimming while red flags were flying this weekend.

 Many public beaches do not have lifeguards on duty, including South Beach in South Haven.

After a 13-year-old boy drowned in Lake Michigan at South Haven’s South Beach over a week ago, one South Haven mom started a petition to bring life guards back to the city’s public beaches.

As of now, there are almost 13,000 supporters of the petition.

Kameron Daugherty, the creator of the petition says that the campaign is a good start to let city leadership know how important beachgoer safety is to the residents and visitors of South Haven.

“I am a mother to four children, including a 13-year-old. I cannot fathom what the family of this drowning victim is going through right now.  And, I could not in good conscience let another day pass without making an effort to improve our beach safety,” Daugherty said.

Interestingly enough, you’d be hard pressed to find a lifeguard at a public beach in Southwest Michigan.

Dave Benjamin with the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project tells ABC57 that Silver Beach in St. Joseph and New Buffalo’s City Beach are the only public beaches in Southwest Michigan with lifeguards.

South Haven beaches have a beach flag status system. Green, yellow and red flags line the shore. When a red flag is up, the water is closed to the public due to strong currents.

But, despite recent drownings people are continuing to swim in red flag waters.

Shawn Guiney was on the beach this weekend when SHAES rescued two swimmers within one hour at South Beach.

“We saw first responders coming. All of the squad cars and fire personnel, a little shocking,” Guiney said.

Guiney says, he’s guilty of swimming in the closed off water.

“We didn’t swim near the barriers but we did swim in the lake. It’s swim at your own risk and we know it.”

Benjamin says that flags are just one tool in the tool box for water safety. He says two things stand in the way of life guards on public beaches which is fear of liability and cost of employment.

Kameron says that her petition is not discrediting South Haven’s emergency responders; she says they do heroic work.

ABC57 did reach out to city officials and SHAES but did not hear back.

You can sign the petition here.

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