MICHIGAN CITY — A day spent relaxing on the beach of Lake Michigan almost turned tragic as a toddler floated away from his family on a yellow, inflatable duck due to strong offshore winds.
Dave Benjamin, the executive director of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, saw what was happening Monday afternoon at Washington Park and immediately snapped into action, notifying the on-duty lifeguard.
“He’s terrified,” Benjamin recalled of the toddler who had on arm floaties. "I’m thinking, 'We got to hurry and get to him.'"
Benjamin said the boy's mother tried to swim after her son, but couldn't reach him. The duck quickly floated from the pier past the swim-area boundaries, making it too dangerous for anyone to try and swim toward him with the lake's powerful rip currents.
So, Benjamin hopped onto his standing paddle board and attempted to get the attention of a nearby boater as he made his way toward the panicked child. But before he made it to the water, he told his wife and daughter, who filmed the incident, to keep their eyes on the toddler in case he went under.
Eventually, the man driving the boat also realized what had been going on and offered his assistance, picking up stragglers, including another man on an inflatable tube, who were trying to grab the boy and couldn't.
As the boater got closer, Benjamin said one woman jumped off too soon, just missing the toddler. But another woman, who wore a life-jacket, dove into the water moments after, reaching the boy after he fell off the duck.
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Olivia is the morning cops/breaking news reporter at The Times. She spends her time monitoring traffic and weather reports, scanning crime logs and reading court documents. The Idaho native and University of Idaho grad has been with The Times since 2019.