Deadly Weekend on Northern Michigan Lakes Places Emphasis on Water Safety

A deadly weekend on the water across the state, including here in Northern Michigan.

There were five drownings across the state, two of those in Northern Michigan.

On Saturday, Crawford County Deputies say Mikel Stanley drowned after jumping into the rough waters of Lake Margrethe.

Then on Sunday night, Leelanau County Deputies say an 18-year-old man died on West Grand Traverse Bay after the canoe he was in flipped.

Captain Mike Sutherland has spent years on the waters of Northern Michigan. He says while this weekend is tragic, these drownings can be prevented, starting with life jackets, something he requires at his paddle sports business.

“You’re protecting yourself and it also allows you the opportunity to help others if you’re wearing a life jacket. You’re a better life swimmer safety swimmer than you are without a life jacket on. We only use sit upon boats and we force people to use life jackets when they’re paddle boarding and we do our best to educate them on the dangers they’re taking by going out into Lake Michigan in these conditions,” said Sutherland.  

And while the water can look appealing, it’s still cold, Mike says that’s where people run into trouble.

“This water is only at about 50 degrees and after only about a few minutes you’ll start feeling like pins on your feet. Use your head and be careful especially in these cold waters that we’re dealing with right now,” said Sutherland.

He says the water can be rough and unforgiving and sometimes it’s best to just stay on shore. DNR officers are seeing a spike in people not carrying basic equipment.

“We’re seeing a surge in people with no personal flotation device on their kayaks. It’s the law, you must have it. Our officers are issuing tickets and reminding people they need that equipment and that seems to be adding to the spike nationwide in fatalities,” said Lt. John Jurcich. 

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