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.
The statistics were released days after a Michigan City man who was pulled unresponsive from the waters of Lake Michigan last week died while receiving care at the hospital, authorities confirmed.
Mark Gaff, 48, died Thursday, according to Terri Millefoglie, spokeswoman for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources’ law enforcement division. Prior to news of his death, he had been last listed in critical condition at Franciscan Health Michigan City.
Earlier in August, two Chicago area boys died after they were pulled from Lake Michigan at Indiana Dunes State Park in separate incidents. The two victims were Malik Freeman, 14, of Aurora, Illinois, and Joshua Torres, 10, of Chicago.
Tiara Hardy, 24, of Gary, died July 23 at Marquette Beach in Gary, and a little over a week later, a Cincinnati, Ohio, man, Salomon C. Martinez, died after swimming at the Portage Lakefront Riverwalk Beach.
Stigmas of drowning
“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,” said Dave Benjamin, director of the GLSRP.
The reason why Benjamin and the organization cite the stigma as so dangerous, is because it gives the public the “false sense of security that, 'It can't happen to me.'"
In 2018 so far, there have been 31 drownings in Lake Michigan, 31 in Lake Erie, 16 in Lake Ontario, seven in Lake Huron and six in Lake Superior.
"'I didn't know ...' is the No. 1 thing that we hear from family and friends of victims after a tragic event," The GLSRP said in the release. "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 health issue."
7 ways to avoid drowning in Northwest Indiana
1. Check the conditions ahead of time.
2. Always wear a life vest.
3. Flip, float and follow.
4. If you're caught in a rip current, swim parallel to the shore.
5. Don't panic.
6. If you see someone struggling in the water, get them something that floats.
7. Stay away from rock walls, piers and other structures.