Almost Dead in the Water: A Decision Made Strictly Based on Financial Reasons

Thanks to Lifeguarding skills learned at Ludington High School by Marvin Brault, a 16 y.o. girl is alive today. 


Andrea Mendez and five of her friends were out on the lighthouse breakwall at about 6 PM on Tuesday 7-27-10 with the intention of jumping off the breakwall because it was the thing to do.  She went first off the western side.


"I jumped in and I was fine.  I know how to swim and stuff, but the waves just kept going over and over my head.", she explained.  Her friends and other bystanders told her not to panic, and a couple of them dove in to help-- but they had difficulties also.  "I didn't think I was going to come back up", she had thought as she tired and was about to give up.


Marvin Brault saw the problem and helped out using what he had learned at LHS swimming classes, which included some lifeguarding skills.  "The current was coming out of the southwest so it was taking her toward the beach.  I saw her go under, she was actually under the water.  My adrenaline was going.  I jumped in and grabbed her under her arm.", he recounted.


"We were struggling to get back to the ladder, the waves kept pulling us from it.  I basically had to carry her halfway up the ladder."  When asked further about it he added, "I didn't think twice about it; I just did it.  Somebody needed help and I helped them."


The hero has spoken, and now... the, shall we say, non-heroes speak:


Following a state trend, Muskegon pulls lifeguards to save money
Published: Tuesday, June 22, 2010
 Megan Hart | The Muskegon Chronicle


...Ludington city manager John Shay said the city also cut its lifeguard program, saving about $27,000.


“This was just one of many cuts we made,” he said. “It was a decision made strictly based on financial reasons. If we had the resources we once had, we would probably still have the lifeguard program.”...


Resources not squandered on $826,000 transient docks and $20,000 raises for the City Attorney no doubt, but Police Chief Barnett also had a say in the LDN 7-31-10 article:


LPD Chief Barnett said the activity is common but is dangerous and illegal.  "We routinely receive dozens of complaints each summer.  We do issue citations when possible."  He noted that a person can be cited for swimming outside a designated swim area, and the activity can result in a misdemeanor offense with up to 90 days in jail and/or a $500 fine. 


Technically, he is right-- and maybe some jail time and a stiff fine will get Ms. Mendez and her friends to think twice about jumping in a no-swimming area in Ludington.  Yet somehow, I don't see any of our strictly full-time officers trudging across the sand to patrol this area regularly.


And let's look again at our so-called hero, Marvin Brault, who admits to a lifetime of committing misdemeanors and to an ignorance of the law:


"It's not just Ludington area kids, everybody does it.  I've been jumping off the breakwall since I was 8.  When I was about 12, we were all out here, my friends and me, and I didn't know how to swim and they just threw me."  He said the day Mendez nearly drowned there were about a dozen people jumping off the breakwater. 


"Yesterday, we walked the breakwall again to see if anyone else was doing it, and I saw a sign right there that said you're not allowed to jump off the breakwall.  I didn't know that it is illegal, I mean I'm from here and I didn't know that."  He said he never noticed the sign before.  "It didn't seem like a big deal."


I seem to remember that part of the lifeguards duties were to enforce the park's rules and know of a couple of kids reluctant to jump off the breakwall when the lifeguards were out (like they would have been at this time), for fear of being reprimanded.  This near-tragedy shows that the Ludington lifeguards are not only missed for their potential life-saving feats, but also for their keeping the Stearn's Park users from doing unsafe and illegal acts. 



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Let me also extend condolences to those who lost friends or family in the recent plane crash in the lake. The paper yesterday also had the story that they recovered two of the victims of the plane crash that recently happened, a couple.
Priorities are mixed up in this state. The safety of its residents be damned. Every man for himself, I guess.
this morning it said a 3rd body was found
As of 6pm tonight, all bodies have been recovered as well as the plane. I will also start a new thread with pics. I took while on the scene. As for breakwater jumpers, no, it never has been legal, and never should be, esp. at the lighthouse area where 100's of boats a day ingress and egress the harbor entrance during busy summer months. It is very dangerous and illogical that kids should feel they have any right to do this stunt. We boaters may or may not see the heads popping up in the water. Propeller haircuts are not in fashion. Once long ago a designated diving board was about half way out the pier, and swimmers routinely used it and enjoyed it. But, someone drowned one day, and that put an end to that. So, what the City should do, imho, is put up a sturdy steel handrail blockade, with signs attached, that forbid this to continue. It has gone on long enough without correction.
I was out on the end by the lighthouse a few saturdays ago and there were people jumping off. Although I knew not to do it years ago and recall no swimming paintings on the ground I never did, but more because I am a scardy cat and not the best swimmer than because your not supposed to.

Dh says he did it quite a bit as a kid. Another friend says he was out about a month ago doing it here and in Manistee last week. DH said they used to jump off with there bikes too.

Dh now says its not a good idea though because of the undertow. Man getting old takes all the adventure out of life.

I would rather jump though than go in an airplane. At least ya have a chance to float, in a plane ya can't pull over on a cloud to change your magneto. lol.

Of course the kids obsession with going to disney may force my hand in the whole "no airplanes' idea.
Over the weekend, two calls to 911 were made from Stearn's Park regarding people who were in danger of drowning because of the presence of strong riptides. In the first a couple of young kids had trouble getting out of the water near the city's north breakwater around 11 AM. They were rescued by others at the scene already. Two more children had trouble getting out of the water a short time later. Reacting to this, the beach was closed by order of LPD Chief Barnett. The LPD enforced this ban by using the police/fire ATV on the beach and the new fireboat in the water up until 7 PM.

"We had two separate 911 calls about swimmers being pulled out by rip currents and pushed against the rocks. We wanted to be cautious We felt it was better to be safe than sorry.", said City Manager John Shay in today's Ludington Daily News.

That's probably why you decided to cut the lifeguard program, and raised the City Attorney's annual retainer more than what all the lifeguards were paid for the season. Jackass.
Rolling on the floor over here XL. Your completely right on this. I drive downtown almost daily and look at the things we spend money on to make the town look inviting to tourists. But then we do not offer a safe environment for them to play at the one place we are especially know for. Our wonderful city Beaches. Is any group advocating for the reinstatement of the life guards at this point? Do we need to become like New jersey where the beaches basically are gated and they charge admission to pay for something we used to cover in our local taxes?
I am quite sure someone budgets could have been trimmed to cover a service such as lifeguards. Sad thing is the Mayer used to go to the same church I did and was highly looked up to... Maybe that's the reason I can't stomach the church here anymore.
In reality didn't it cost about as much to leave a patrol of fire / police presence there as a precaution as about a week of life guards would have been?
The costs of those programs are already figured into the equation, Guido; they were free, LOL.

In Ludington, our authorities don't consider that proactive drivel, it's reactive response all the way.
If the policeman or fire fighters are free I want to see one posted on the breakwater then. Maybe then someone will complain about misused of higher paid persons... The snob factor you know.. and do the right thing.
This is why we have lifeguards at the beach, to provide life-rescuing service. I think it is one of the most important programs we have, with six blocks of Lake Michigan beach, it needs to be protected by lifeguards.”

-- Ludington Mayor John Henderson, as quoted in 6-29-2009 LDN after the lifeguards had saved three kids from drowning last year.

(Silence on the Lifeguard program)

-- Mayor Henderson, since the program was cut last year continuing through now.
Where were the parents who let their kids swim in those conditions? I think they should have pulled all the kids out but let the adults swim if they wanted. It's OK to tell me the conditions are not safe but it's up to me to decide if I want to enter the water.


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