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Bill to require rescue equipment along Lake Michigan aims to prevent drownings

A ring life buoy hangs on a post at a pier at Occoneechee State Park in Virginia, 2014.
Virginia State Parks
/
Flickr
SB 253 would require those who maintain public beaches, piers and other public sites along the lake to have highly visible, emergency flotation devices available – like this one at Occoneechee State Park in Virginia.

Last year, 39 people drowned in Lake Michigan –six of them along Indiana beaches and other public sites. A state senator is trying, once again, to pass legislation that would require all public beaches and piers to have rescue equipment nearby.

SB 253, authored by Sen. Rodney Pol (D-Chesterton), would require those who maintain public beaches, piers and other public sites along the lake to have highly visible, emergency flotation devices available. Local governments would also have to report drownings at public sites at least twice a year.

A rip current caused Greg Froese’s daughter Chase to drown off of Porter Beach in 2015 when she and friends stopped there to swim on their way to Michigan. He said having a flotation device is critical, especially if you’re a novice rescuer.

“A major reason why the two other girls were rescued is because the rescuing good Samaritans had a boogie board and kayak with them. There was no other floating device on that beach on that day," Froese said.

READ MORE: How do I follow Indiana’s legislative session? Here’s your guide to demystify the process

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Dave Benjamin co-founded the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project — a nonprofit that teaches water safety and rescue techniques as well as assists the families of drowning victims. He said life-saving equipment isn’t cheap, but it’s much more affordable than the cost to search for a body.

“We could be spending 24, 48 hours or longer, weeks, millions of dollars for the recovery when $1,000 could possibly make an impact there.”

Senator Pol proposed a similar bill last year, but it was stalled when it didn’t receive a hearing in the House Natural Resources Committee.

This current bill passed a Senate committee and now moves to the full Senate for consideration.

Rebecca is our energy and environment reporter. Contact her at rthiele@iu.edu or follow her on Twitter at @beckythiele.

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Rebecca Thiele covers statewide environment and energy issues.