KENOSHA -- After the drownings of three young men within a three-week period, Coast Guard officials said Tuesday, August 8th their first message to those thinking about heading into the water is to know the conditions beforehand.
It was a beautiful day in SE Wisconsin on Tuesday; the water temperature was in the upper 60s and the swim risk was considered "low" up and down the shoreline. Coast Guard officials, however, warned the Great Lakes can be dangerous for anyone at any time.
14-year-old Sareyi Ahmed drowned at Atwater Park Beach in Shorewood after jumping into Lake Michigan from the break wall on July 18th. His brother said he was not an experienced swimmer. Officials said Ahmed asked friends to record him jumping into the water.
A 16-year-old boy drowned in Lake Michigan in Racine on July 30th. He was identified as Amari Donell Griffin-Brewer from Racine. It happened while Griffin-Brewer was swimming with friends. He went under, and never resurfaced.
Rescue crews on August 7th were called out to Kenosha's lakefront -- where an 18-year-old man drowned. There was a heavy police presence in the area, beginning around 6:30 p.m., near North Pier in downtown Kenosha. Police said an 18-year-old was attempting to swim to the break wall with a friend when he encountered difficulty with the harbor currents and went under the water.
A second male was able to swim back to the pier safely.
"I would say the teenager part is definitely abnormal," Lt. Bryan Swintek with the U.S. Coast Guard said.
On Tuesday, teens plunged into Lake Michigan off of Kenosha's North Pier. That's what the 18-year-old victim did Monday night before trying to swim out to the break wall with a friend. He didn't make it out of the water alive.
"When they went underwater, they never resurfaced, so it sounds like they potentially hit some currents under the water," Swintek said.
"You could see the undertow and the current. You won't jump off. I've seen people jump in and be like 'the current almost got me,'" Joe Wayne, who was at the lakefront Monday night, said.
A bystander tried to save the 18-year-old man Monday night, but was unsuccessful.
Swintek said the Coast Guard recommends people do not attempt such rescues.
"Don't become a victim yourself. Try to throw them something to hold onto, give them some sort of flotation device and contact local emergency responders," Swintek said.
The Milwaukee Coast Guard station oversees the entire lake. Swintek said 67 people drowned in Lake Michigan in 2016, while nearly 40 have so far in 2017. He said there's no single cause. It's a mix of people getting caught in a current, the water being too cold for swimming, or people being too inexperienced to swim in a great lake.
"Unfortunately, there's inherent risk with Lake Michigan," Swintek said.
He said swimmers can minimize the risk by knowing the water conditions and understanding their limits.
As a general rule, the Coast Guard says unless you're an excellent swimmer, you should have some kind of flotation device if you're going further than chest-deep into the lake.
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