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Two Men Who've Experienced Close Calls in Lake Michigan Push Water Safety

June 13, 2024 2p

(WGTD)---A group that was formed to reduce the number of drownings in the Great Lakes advocates a multi-pronged approach. David Benjamin, director of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, was a recent guest on WGTD’s Morning Show. He also recently conducted a seminar on the topic in Racine.

For one thing, Benjamin noted that a drowning prevention strategy does not begin and end with knowing how to swim. “What we find is that people associate knowing how to swim as water safety when knowing how to swim is just knowing how to swim,” he said.

If you find yourself in trouble in the water, the first thing to do is to try to defeat the urge to panic. The next thing is rollover, float, strive to keep your head above the water and gather the strength needed to make your way back to safety, Benjamin says.

Benjamin established his group after nearly drowning himself while surfing in Lake Michigan.

Since 2010, over 1,240 people have drowned in the Great Lakes.

Benjamin was joined on the program by Seith Weidman, the assistant athletic director at Carthage College. He’s taken a special interest in water safety and is a member of the Kenosha Water Safety Coalition, a group that was formed several years ago after a series of drownings.

On the program Weidman relayed the story of how he and his wife were walking along Pike Creek in Pennoyer Park two years ago when he spotted some adults on shore and two children wading in the river’s swift currents. Within two minutes, it was obvious the kids were swept off their feet and were being pushed out into the lake.

 That’s when Weidman—without a flotation device handy—decided it was time to jump in. Fortunately, another man in the area saw what was happening and jumped in with a cooler which acted as a float.  

Weidman and the man were able to save the two kids, but it was a harrowing experience. 

In recent years, the Kenosha City Council passed an ordinance that prohibits swimming near piers and jetties. Also, life preservers have been placed in kiosks along Kenosha’s harbor channel and at the mouth of the Pike River.