Teen pulled from water Friday dies

Becky Vargo • Jul 21, 2015 at 11:36 AM

WZZM-TV reported Saturday evening that the Ottawa County Sheriff's Department said Christian Ouding, 13, died at Spectrum Health Hospital at 4:18 a.m. The medical examiner ruled the teenager's death a drowning.

(Updated at 2:25 p.m. Saturday) A Grand Rapids boy who was under water for more than a half-hour in Lake Michigan on Friday died early Saturday, several Grand Rapids news agencies are reporting.

Coaches of the travel soccer team that Christian Ouding played for notified all the players that the boy died early Saturday at DeVos Children's Hospital in Grand Rapids, WXMI-TV reported. WOOD-TV also reported the boy died at the hospital early Saturday, and the soccer club gathered at MVP Fieldhouse in Grand Rapids later Saturday morning to remember their late teammate.

(Updated at 8:28 p.m. Friday) A 13-year-old Grand Rapids boy was airlifted to a Grand Rapids hospital after being pulled from Lake Michigan late Friday afternoon.

Christian Ouding was listed in critical condition Friday evening.

The boy was swimming with friends just north of the Christian Reformed Conference Grounds, 12253 Lakeshore Ave. in Grand Haven Township, shortly after 3 p.m. when witnesses saw him struggling and go under the water, said Lt. Lee Hoeksema of the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department.

People on the beach formed human chains, while others in kayaks and on a paddleboat searched for the boy about 30-50 yards offshore. Two Sheriff’s Department patrol boats and a U.S. Coast Guard inflatable boat joined the search on the fairly calm water.

A Sheriff’s Department dive team member located the boy at 3:45 p.m.

The boy was pulled onto a Sheriff's Department boat, where civilians immediately began CPR on him. The boat came into shore, where paramedics took over treatment and firefighters carried the boy on a backboard, down the beach and up the steps to the top of the bluff to a waiting ambulance. He was first taken to North Ottawa Community Hospital, and the AeroMed helicopter later flew him to Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids.

Diane Kalota of Canton, who is staying at the conference grounds, said she was sunning on the beach and saw the boy swimming.

“He went under a couple of times, but I thought he was just swimming around,” she said. “He raised his arm to a Sea Doo. I was trying to decide for five minutes if he was in trouble. Then I saw the guy run out there and I knew he was in trouble.”

Hoeksema said the boy was swimming and his friends were kayaking about 20 yards away.

“His dad saw he was struggling and started going out,” Hoeksema said. “The last thing he saw was a wave going over him and he disappeared.”

To see more photos from the scene, click here.

Hoeksema said the boy and his family were spending a day on the beach at a private residence north of the conference grounds.

“His soccer team was having an end-of-year party,” Hoeksema said.

Melissa Beute of Jenison and Sara Vandeguchte of Hudsonville were also enjoying the beach on Friday when Beute said they saw the boys kayaking.

“We heard someone yelling, ‘Help, help — call 911, somebody’s drowning,’” Beute said.

Several people tried to call for help, but “nobody can get cell reception down here,” Vandeguchte said.

The women ran up to the conference grounds' office to make sure a call for help went through. They then returned to the beach and joined the human chains searching the water for the boy.

“If it was our own kid, I’d want everyone helping,” Beute said.

Brendan Huyser, 14, of Grand Rapids was in his family’s camper when he heard an alert at the campground, he said.

“I got on my bike and rode down here,” he said. “I threw off my shoes. I swam out there with my uncle.”

Huyser said he was one of the civilians on board the first patrol boat on the scene. They acted as spotters, then helped pull the boy from the water when he was found.

Huyser said he never considered doing anything else.

“I had no thought to staying on shore,” he said. “My first objective was to get out there and help.”

Hoeksema said a situation like this is difficult for everyone.

“It reminds you of how dangerous this body of water can be,” he said.

Hoeksema said people should wear life jackets if they are not good swimmers, and stay close to friends.

The Tribune will update this story as more information becomes available.

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