Two South Bend-area teens drown at Warren Dunes State Park

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SAWYER, Mich. -- A day at the beach turned tragic Sunday evening, when first responders were called out to Warren Dunes State Park.

Lt. Wesley Koza, with the Baroda-Lake Township Police Department said “Two people, who were found out to be two juveniles from the South Bend area, were pulled from the water by three bystanders, and they advised that two people were still in the water.”

Lake Township's rescue boat was deployed-- and thirty-five minutes later-- the bodies of two brothers, just sixteen and seventeen-years old, were recovered. All four juveniles were transported to Beaumont Spectrum Health Lakeland Hospital, but it was too late to save the brothers, who both went to South Bend St. Joseph High School.

“It’s just heartbreaking that there’s more, preventable tragedies happening," said Dave Benjamin, executive director with the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project (GLSRP). "These were probably four friends who were just going to have a fun day and now it’s a tragedy that they’re going to have to live with.”

The GLSRP is a non-profit working to promote water safety. Benjamin said, that despite relatively calm conditions that night, the cold water temperature-- around fifty-five degrees-- could still prove dangerous.

“I’ve swam in cold water, and what it does is it constricts your chest and it takes about a minute for you to get your breathing under control," he said.

Those conditions could cause joints and muscles to cramp up-- and spur emotional stress.

“Panic is the first stage of drowning, and if you don’t know that panic is the first stage of drowning, you’re likely going to exhaust all your energy and submerge," said Benjamin, who added that drownings are a public health issue often caused by a lack of water safety education.

Benjamin argued that beaches without proper safety precautions, like lifeguards, are not helping-- something that certain beach-goers agree with.

Chad Barton, who came out to Warren Dunes with some friends, said “You can look around, there’s no signage. There’s nothing saying ‘swim at your own risk,’ ‘be careful,’ ‘no lifeguards,’ nothing. So there is definitely something to be said about that.”

The GLSRP has safety tips and resources for swimmers looking to stay safe when going to the beach, which can be found on their website: Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project (glsrp.org)

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