Search continues for missing paramedic

Shannon Gollnick and four other Life EMS paramedics stood quietly Monday afternoon, gazing out over Government Basin inside the gates at Coast Guard Station Grand Haven.
Becky Vargo
Jul 2, 2013

“We’ve been out here since 1:30 a.m.,” said Gollnick, operations director for the ambulance service. “Essentially, we’re just out here so he’s not alone.”

Their co-worker, John English, 47, drowned Sunday afternoon after going for a swim off a boat in Lake Michigan, about three miles north of the Grand Haven pier.

“He was just a great guy,” Gollnick said. “He was always happy, one of the happiest guys to be around. He was quite the character.”

Gollnick said English worked as a paramedic for Life EMS for more than 20 years. The Walker man was also part of the team that was in charge of Camp 911, a day camp for students who were taught basic first aid, abduction evasion and other emergency skills.

“He was amazing with patients,” Gollnick said.

Life EMS President Mark Meijer released the following statement Monday afternoon: “The accidental drowning of our longtime medic, educator and friend, John English, leaves us saddened beyond words. John served the West Michigan community 20 years as a passionate emergency services professional. John will be deeply missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with the English family.”

Jennifer VanSkiver, spokeswoman for the North Ottawa Community Health System, said she first met English several years ago when they both worked at the Life EMS Camp 911.

"He was a talented professional and a kind man," she said. "He will be missed."

English was on a 37-foot Sea Ray with 10 other people Sunday afternoon. The group was on their way back from Muskegon to Grand Haven when they decided to stop so English could go for a swim, said Lt. Steve Kempker of the Ottawa County Sheriff's Department.

The vessel stopped about three-quarters of a mile offshore from North Beach County Park, a short distance north of the Grand Haven pier. Kempker said English dove off into water, which was between 59 and 64 degrees at the time.

To read more of this story, see today’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.

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