Pier ice - fun yet perilous

(Updated: 12:07 p.m. Monday) Hundreds of people ventured out onto the wildly beautiful Lake Michigan ice Saturday and Sunday despite cautions from emergency officials not to do so.
Becky Vargo
Feb 17, 2014

“Reports were received on three separate occasions Saturday of people falling through near the piers,” said Chief Jeff Hawke, director of the Grand Haven Department of Public Safety.

**SEE full Public Safety report of ice rescues from the weekend in PDF attached below**

Police assisted three people on the pier Sunday afternoon and responded to another call of a woman who had gone through the ice just after 6:30 p.m.

Emergency crews responded to the North Pier at 2:47 p.m. Saturday to assist a man to the shore who had fallen through the ice.

“It was just like our training session earlier this week,” said GHDPS Sgt. Lee Adams. “He was trying to save his dog that went through the ice.”

Police responded back to the pier at 4:45 p.m. Saturday on a report of a wet, cold and disoriented man in the parking lot asking for help, Hawke said. He had also fallen through the ice.

Hawke said he received a report Saturday morning by email of a man who had fallen through the ice while trying to take pictures between the piers. Onlookers assisted the man to shore.

Around 3 p.m. Sunday, police responded to the South Pier where a woman had slipped and fallen, injuring her ankle. She was assisted to shore and transported from Grand Haven State Park by ambulance.

Police barricaded the entrance to the park for a short time to allow emergency personnel access to the area that was abnormally busy for this time of year.

Adams said while assisting the woman, a 14-year-old boy slipped off the pier onto the channel ice. He was not injured, but was unable to get back on the pier.

And, while assisting the boy, a 7-year-old girl also slipped off the pier into the channel ice.

“Her parents were watching her look over the edge and she just slid right off,” Adams said. She was not injured.

Police were called back to the South Pier about 6:40 p.m. on a report of a woman who had gone through the ice, but was being assisted to a vehicle in the parking lot.

“The ice is not safe,” Hawke said. “Those that walk on the ice are putting themselves and rescuers at risk.”

Still, the atmosphere was festive among those venturing out on Lake Michigan next to the South Pier, where a wide, flat area made walking fairly easy.

“I grew up here and I’ve never seen it like this,” said Adam Walendzik as he and his wife, Kathleen, pushed their son, C.J., across the ice in his stroller.

“It blows my mind walking out here where I surf,” Adam said.

Randy and Tracy Bremmer of Grand Haven tagged along beyond the pier heads as their triplets – Natalie, Daniel and Anna – clambered over ice formations.

Randy said it’s been five years since they checked out the icebergs on Lake Michigan.

“It’s amazing how many people are out here,” he said.

The Kirn and Moore families of Rockford joined together to get their five children out of the house.

“We came because of all of the people who have posted on facebook on it,” said Anne Moore.

“It’s a natural wonder,” said Tami Kirn.

The women agreed it was a little crazy.

“Traffic is worse than in summer,” Moore said.

Comments

newspaperlawyer

These people have NO respect for authority... I would hope that the police would be charging these parents with risking these children lives. Grand Rapids Police Department certainly had no trouble charging the stupid idiot father who had his young child standing on the Grand River bridge pillar during the floods this past year. This is what we have for future decision making.

Former Grandhavenite

"These people have NO respect for authority"

This is pretty much the highest compliment you can pay someone in my book.

deuce liti

I feel the same way about parents who smoke... Or are Catholic.

LessThanAmused

Oh please. Enough with the histrionics. People have been walking out there, during times when there's sufficient ice to allow walking on it, for the last 150 years, or more.

What do you expect the cops to do? Stand there at the entrance to the pier in lockstep, with arms linked, AK-47's Drawn and ready to shoot on sight anyone who tries to do an end rum around them????

If you think it's unwise to do so then DON'T, but you don't have any say or authority to impose your views on the rest of humanity.

Mystic Michael

Wow. We're to Godwin's Law already - on only the second post! That's got to be some kind of Internet record!

LessThanAmused

Yeah, OK, fine.....me and the wife went to the movies last night for Valentines Day and saw "The Monuments Men". I'd guess that's why that popped out. Don't believe I've even been accused of using Godwin's law before, although I'm proud to have broken the record!

Good movie too if you're into historical drama's.

Barry Soetoro

So this is what trips your "don't impose your ....on me" circuit breaker. You crack me up LTA.

LessThanAmused

The feeling is generally mutual Mr. Soetoro.

Barry Soetoro

Call me Barry!

Lanivan

Uh - shouldn't it read - "Call me J{a}rry"?

Barry Soetoro

Only you, Lani. Only you.

GHJames

I think the point was that parents are exposing their children to an unnecessary danger after it has already been pointed out that people in that area at that time are already falling through the ice and requiring rescue.

LessThanAmused

I understand the point. I also wouldn't take my kids out there and let them walk anywhere but on the pier. I mentioned earlier that as much as I'd like to hike out there past the lighthouse that I don't have the intestinal fortitude to do it, but it's not my job, or your job, or his job, to tell anybody else how to run their lives, or what to do or not do. Understand? You don't have any authority to tell someone else how to run their life. Most of us struggle running our own.

I certainly think the guy in G.R. was not the sharpest knife in the drawer. I can't fathom what would make me, as a parent, tie a rope around my kid and put him/her in danger, on purpose. As a kid I did stuff like that all the time, without my parents knowledge, that to some degree is what kids do, they test the limits.

I'm also sure the rescue teams yesterday were not real impressed with the IQ's of some of the folks they had to save from themselves. Maybe that's the problem now that I think about it. These folks out there, taking these unnecessary risks, are doing it because they know there's someone right there, ready to put their own lives in danger to save their stupid butts.

Maybe we should just hang the ole skull and crossbones sign up there and say, if you go out there, be prepared to save yourself or die, because no one's coming for you if you get in trouble. Would that be better? People do stupid stuff at times, it's part of the territory. Some learn, some don't.

Former Grandhavenite

I'm not surprised so many went out there, pier pressure being a powerful influence on many folks.

People used to always say I was insane for jumping off the pier and surfing in during good wave days, but I'm extremely glad that I could make that choice and some politically correct attorney from the city's insurance company didn't have them block it off with a barbed wire fence. I'm really glad that our entire society hasn't been transformed into a lame, disneyfied, all-adventure-must-be-approved-by-the-authorities collection of padded cells. It's very much possible to believe that an action is unwise but should still be allowed as a choice for others rather than being banned.

Mystic Michael

"Pier pressure". I love it!

Lanivan

I'm thinking MM and FGH went to different schools together!

LessThanAmused

Preach it Brother!

Along with your Peer pressure premise, I tend to think that some folks, seeing other folks already out there, having fun, use that as a sign of approval, that it's safe to do what they're doing, rather than asking themselves if it really is or not.
"I want to do that, they're doing that, so it must be safe for me to do it too!"
I'm sure if you asked most of the folks who were out there yesterday if they felt in danger most all of them would say no, and they have their experience, where nothing went wrong, to prove it to you. It was only the few who had issues that would likely not do it again. Some people are just here to act as warnings for the rest of us, but you've got to be paying attention to get the message.

Lanivan

It will take the drowning of one or two people for the notion of being in danger when out beyond the pier to sink in. Extreme sports, The Survivor - all perpetuate the idea that cautious people are losers, and that people who take risks and tempt fate are winners who can beat the system. Adults who take their young children far out on the ice are especially guilty.

I remember ice skating on frozen lakes as a kid. The first time we went home crying and freezing after venturing too far out beyond safe limits and falling through the ice, we were given hot chocolate with cookies and a warm bath. The second time, we were sent to our rooms with no supper.

Mystic Michael

Unfortunately this is nothing new. Throughout my childhood and adolescence in the Grand Haven area some 40+ years ago, winter drownings caused by falling through the Lake Michigan ice were an ongoing, if infrequent occurrence. No doubt it's happened since I move away. And it must have happened many times before I ever came into the world.

Some things never change...

tetrahydra

Like moths drawn to the flame these idiots are. At least leave the kids at home.

LessThanAmused

Another point that the wife just reminded me of....I was out there at the end of the pier, less than 2 weeks ago, shooting (with my cameras) the hundreds of ducks that were fishing in the OPEN WATER between the piers. So, these folks this past weekend who were out there between the piers were walking on ice that was barely 2 weeks old, if that!

A big difference within a small distance between walking on the south side of the pier, where there is little to no current or walking around out there between the pierheads where the current is much more pronounced. The part that boggles my mind is that these folks here visiting and walking around out there don't have a clue what the conditions were out there two weeks, or two days ago, yet they're willing to put their lives on the line for a couple snapshots with their stupidphones© ??

Does anyone know if all the people who fell thru the ice this past weekend did so between the pierheads, or did people hit the water on the south side of the pier also??

toyotafj07

I don't think its about taking away peoples rights, its about keeping people safe from themselves. they are dumb enough to go out there and then when they fall in they expect somebody to come out there and save them! so I guess go ahead and risk your life for something so stupid but don't expect to be saved we can just wait for spring and fish the bodies out then!

polarize

Amazing how people can put their entire family and legacy at risk walking out on the unknown ice. I used to work in ice and water rescue and can tell you from personal experience the number of times I broke through the ice in training and during rescues. I even broke through the ice in my own pond because I didn't realize the water table had risen so much that I was actually 1/3 the way onto the pond.

The difference is that when I was training or performing a rescue that I was equipped with gear to keep me dry and afloat. Even with proper gear, a rescuer is at enormous risk from a panicky victim struggling to keep afloat at any cost including the rescuer's life.

Please fellow citizen PLEASE!!! Do yourself a favor and preserve the safety of your family by enjoying the sights from a distance. You can never possibly have an idea what the conditions are under the ice that can jeopardize your safety in a split second!

I have been scuba diving under the ice in my youth and will tell you that the fear of not being able to find your way back to the hole you fell through is REAL! Thankfully we had taglines that we could tug for the line tender to pull us back to the opening. I am much wiser now than in my youth having fallen through the ice and swept off the pier in vicious storms only to be rescued myself by the Coast Guard. If I myself, as a rescuer, was so vulnerable to the danger even with proper gear and training what makes you think you are safe out on the ice or even the pier during storms?

What good is the adrenaline rush from such an experience if you may not live to talk about it? Why would you become a parent to nurture and sacrifice for your children only to put them in harm's way whether intentional or not? Common sense should tug at your conscience!

I have five children and would lay down my life for each of them but there is a big difference between putting yourself in harm's way to protect your children than just being plain stupid.

Please don't take this as chastisement....or well maybe you should! Be mad at me for calling you out for poor decision making. I will take that ridicule from you and accept it if only my words might make you think for a minute and even save your life or someone you love.

Hats off to professional rescuers and may you never need to put your training into real life often. I am thankful you are ready but hope to spare your heartache should you get there too late.

Aquadoc

Important to watch the ice melt as we near the spring thaw on my brother's beach cam at surfgrandhaven.com You will see that the ice is the thinnest along the south pier on the south side and the open water appears there first. It is horrifying to see that this is the route most traveled by those going out onto the ice.

As our public safety department reported, there are warmer water currents there under the ice. This may be warmer Grand River water backing up as it flows out into Lake Michigan. Our local U.S. Army Corps of Engineers may be able to describe this in greater detail. However, it does not take and expert eye to see this on the beach cam as the ice melts in the coming weeks.

I was really astounded by the news pictures of the hundreds of people walking out there along that route. I haven't been living out at the lake for a number of winters, but in the past, it seems that most of these ice adventurers walked out from the City Beach parking area, which can be dangerous, but not nearly as dangerous as walking out next to the pier. I am supposing they are using the Fisherman's Parking lot, which may be being kept open and plowed for parking, per agreement between the city and the state park. Guess I need to go out there and take a look at the situation.

Back in the 60s I use to go to small lakes in the spring and scuba dive under the ice. We always took the precaution of marking our hole underwater with a bright marker and used safety lines back to the hole. Once you are under the ice you cannot see the access hole. The one man who fell though was lucky to have his tripod catch on the hole.

Don't know if you can really call these ice adventurers reckless and
foolhardy. They are simply completely unaware of the danger. It does
look relatively safe and the route next to the pier looks like the
safest way to get out there, but is actually the most dangerous, as
evidenced by the recent incidents and by also watching the melt pattern
on the beach cam in the coming weeks.

If this pedestrian ice traffic route continues into the late winter, we could be in for some tragedy, not just from people falling through the ice, but also people slipping off the icy pier into open water.

Very little was reported by our local media on the most recent pier fatality off the north pier this past fall and I have never seen the Public Safety or Corps of Engineer incident reports, but historically, the preceding pier fatality on December 2, 2007 was an individual slipping off the ice-coated south pier.

I know the city probably enjoys the boost in winter tourism, whether it be the multitudes flocking here to see giant waves in the fall or the winter ice in the winter, but regardless, our visitors are using that Fisherman parking lot for access to the pier and that portion of the shoreline. It may be better if we can create safer access point. The City Beach parking area is too small to accommodate the numbers we are seeing. Maybe some sort of agreement could be made whereby the south end of the sate park could be plowed out for access and parking and close off the Fisherman lot while these dangerous conditions persist.

At the least, we could put up some temporary signage and warning tape on that ice route next to the south pier and try and divert the pedestrian traffic a few hundred yards to the south. Hate to be a killjoy, but we can't just have hundreds of people thinking that the route next to the pier is the safest, when actually it has the thinnest ice and is the most dangerous.

Yes, there is always that age-old argument that people should be responsible for their own safety, but people who really know the true danger have a social responsibility too. If we know a particular area is dangerous, we should not be providing access to it and having people streaming out there oblivious of the true danger.

Bob Beaton

Zaapmama27

We were downtown and saw the line of cars and people on the ice Saturay and decided to come back Sunday with three kids. We had a blast and I remember saying to my husband...if it wasn't safe, the police would be here turning people away...with half the town here on the ice, for sure they would be out here or post a warning that it wasn't safe. If I had known Sunday at 2pm when we were out there that three people had fallen through the ice, I would not have beought my entire family out there. I didn't see one officer, I didn't see anything...not one thing...no warning at all! I was floored when I saw in the Tribune after 6pm Sunday night about three people falling through the ice on Saturday. How on earth do our elected and paid officials of Grand Haven knowing that three people have fallen through the ice, knowing that there are multitudes of residents out there with kids!!! NOT do anything to warn us?! I was so shaken, I called the police department Monday...they told me theyre working on a sign...MONDAY?! Really?! and that they cant afford to have an officer out there all day. I find that so disturbing. I would have gladly volunteered for free to warn people had I known three people fell through the ice on Saturday. Grand Haven police knew this, yet nothing there to warn us...I would have settled for a cardboard sign written in Sharpee pen informing me of three people falling through ice...doesnt even have to be a fancy sign.

LessThanAmused

ohforcryinoutloud......like anybody would've read the sign if there had been one out there......

You want the police department to do your thinking for you???

What pray tell dear lady would make you think that it's safe out there on the ice?....just the fact that there's some other idiots out there that don't know any better either?

Let me cut and paste a comment I made yesterday that you just proved is completely and utterly, depressingly true......

"Along with your Peer pressure premise, I tend to think that some folks, seeing other folks already out there, having fun, use that as a sign of approval, that it's safe to do what they're doing, rather than asking themselves if it really is or not.
"I want to do that, they're doing that, so it must be safe for me to do it too!"
I'm sure if you asked most of the folks who were out there yesterday if they felt in danger most all of them would say no, and they have their experience, where nothing went wrong, to prove it to you. It was only the few who had issues that would likely not do it again. Some people are just here to act as warnings for the rest of us, but you've got to be paying attention to get the message".

Here's another quote for you to consider.......

"Another point that the wife just reminded me of....I was out there at the end of the pier, less than 2 weeks ago, shooting (with my cameras) the hundreds of ducks that were fishing in the OPEN WATER between the piers. So, these folks this past weekend who were out there between the piers were walking on ice that was barely 2 weeks old, if that!

A big difference within a small distance between walking on the south side of the pier, where there is little to no current or walking around out there between the pierheads where the current is much more pronounced. The part that boggles my mind is that these folks here visiting and walking around out there don't have a clue what the conditions were out there two weeks, or even two days ago, yet they're willing to put their lives on the line for what? a couple snapshots with their stupidphones© ??

So, thanks for making my points for me. Like sheep to the slaughter they go....

And you can hate me all you want if you don't like the presentation of the message, I don't give a rats furry behind if you think I'm being "mean" or some such foolishness....if me being "mean" will get you to think for yourself and keep you from drowning yourself and your kids then it's worth being the "bad guy".

The sad thing is there's a whole bunch of folks out running around these days that don't know now to think for themselves, they have NO critical thinking skills. Maybe they don't teach that in schools anymore, I dunno, but unless you plan on making it onto the Darwin list in the near future I'd suggest figuring out for yourself if something is safe to do or not......do NOT rely on someone else to do your thinking for you!!!

I'll bet the cops had a good laugh after your call.

Oh and just so ya know....it's never a good idea to run with scissors either.....consider that my gift to you and yours.

Good luck

newspaperlawyer

All it will take is the local police to take the photo's and interviews the GH Tribune took of the parents and their kids in a stroller and send the case to the prosecutor of review... It worked in Grand Rapids..or These kids in heavy clothing and with out any type of flotation device on these helpless kids had they been one of the victims that fell through the ice. I certainly did not see anyone carrying a rescue rope. I have falling threw the ice once in my life and it was not a good feeling and that was in chest deep water.

I would think the USCG, DNR and Grand Haven Police certainly could of done more... If if the about comment is found to be true then someone certainly have their Supervisor position pulled. I believe you need to trespass on Local, State, and City property to get to the lake and pier... It all comes down to common sense and risking the First Responders lives for stupidity. Maybe NOCH paramedics and GHDPS should of just camped out in the lot waiting.

GHJames

Ever seen anyone swimming with a red flag flying over the beach?

Tri-cities realist

Trespass on public property, that's a new one to me!

GHJames

I once asked if there was ever a time when police stopped people from going on the pier in dangerous conditions and was told there are a number of reasons they can't including the civil liability if they stop some, but others get through or go out after they leave. That's the one that stuck in my mind. They are actually afraid of being sued if they try to stop people from going out there and someone gets by them. I always thought that was a bunch of BS until I saw all the people who got sued when a child died sledding in Duncan's Woods. I know it's not the exact same situation, but it did show me lawsuits were a legitimate concern there.

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