Lake Michigan drownings surge to new high in 2020

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — Drownings in Lake Michigan have reached record levels with at least 53 people dead so far this year, according to a water safety advocacy group.

The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, a nonprofit that tracks Great Lakes drownings, said that compares with 48 drownings in 2019 and 42 in 2018.

The previous record was 49 drownings in 2010. Since 2010, there has been a total of 434 drownings in Lake Michigan, according to the project.

Just last week, 12-year-old Lane Frame of Manchester, Tennessee was swept off a Frankfort pier and drowned in the lake.

Dave Benjamin, the organization’s executive director of project management, told the Detroit Free Press there is a chance that the pandemic caused an increase in drownings, which forced pools to close, but he said his team saw it as “the new normal.”

The group, which began tracking drownings in 2010, also reported a total of 94 drownings in the Great Lakes this year and a total of 931 drownings since 2010.

Benjamin said the group collects information about fatal incidents from news articles, social media reports, and tips from family members and witnesses. He added that social media has helped the tracker to be more accurate.

Benjamin said it is it likely that there will be more drownings before the end of the year.

The World Health Organization has even cited drowning as one of the leading causes of unintentional injury death.

“Drowning is a public health issue,” Benjamin said. “It gets treated like a recreational issue.”