MICHIGAN CITY — As colossal waves crashed into a pier, two small children can be seen hugging cement posts while nearly being swept into the tumultuous water.
Brandon Clair, owner of Timeless Aerial Photography, caught the footage Sunday afternoon while taking drone video of the high waves at Washington Park and Beach in Michigan City. Clair said the children made it back to the shore safely, but the situation could have easily had a worse outcome.
“I was just trying to keep an eye on them,” Clair said.
At the time, swimming was prohibited because of the high waves and currents, however people disregarded the warnings, leading to perilous situations.
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“At the same time, the (Indiana Department of Natural Resources) was pulling out a couple who was carried out by the rip current,” Clair said. “There were just too many people they were having to help. … No one was supposed to be in the water. Because there were no lifeguards, it was like a free-for-all.”
Timeless Aerial Photography has been in business since 2015 and Clair regularly visits beaches across Northwest Indiana. This year, he has seen more and more dangerous behaviors from those visiting Lake Michigan’s shores.
“It’s happening more and more because the beaches are packed,” Clair said. “I have never seen so many people at the beaches before. Usually, the beaches were pretty empty when I went out, but now, no matter the weather, people are getting out there.”
David Benjamin, executive director of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, said piers should be restricted when there are high waves, as seen in the video.
“If the cities are providing access to the beach, it’s also providing access to these piers,” Benjamin said. “Save a life and restrict beachgoers from accessing the piers. Every year people are washed off and die a completely preventable death.”
Benjamin said that on Sunday, several drownings and near-drownings happened even though swimmers were warned of dangerous conditions and told not to go in the lake.
On Sunday in South Haven, Michigan, a man was washed off a pier and saved, however, another man disappeared under the waves and the search for his body is ongoing. In St. Joseph, Michigan, two women were hospitalized after being rescued from nearly drowning and in Bridgman, Michigan, a boy was pulled from the beach and taken away in an ambulance after CPR was performed.
To date in 2020, there have been a total of 17 drownings in Lake Michigan, with an additional three people who were pulled from the lake and their condition is currently unknown, according to the Great Lakes Surf Project.