Emergency crews from the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office, Grand Haven Township Fire Rescue and Coast Guard Station Grand Haven searched the beach and woods along the Lake Michigan shore for almost two hours before finding Andrew Crooks, 8, and Austin Crooks, 10, walking south on the beach.
At the time, they were about two and a half miles north of Buchanan Beach, did not know how far away they were or how to get back to their bikes, according to Sgt. Bob Ruster of the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office.
Grand Haven Township Fire Chief Tom Gerencer transported the brothers in the department’s all-terrain vehicle back to the area where they left their bike and scooter hours earlier.
According to their maternal grandfather, Andrew Flick, the boys left their paternal grandmother’s home in Grand Haven Township late Tuesday morning and traveled about a half-mile before crossing Lakeshore Drive and leaving their bike and scooter at the gate to the Buchanan Street Beach.
The boys are students at Edgewood Elementary School in Fruitport, which begins its school year Sept. 4.
The bike and scooter were eventually discovered by family at the beach and police were called at about 4 p.m.
Ruster said the boys were supposed to be at the nearby Christian Reformed Conference Grounds and failed to return.
The person who called 911 went to the conference grounds but could not locate the boys. She then found the boys’ bikes and a bag with their shoes at the Buchanan Street Beach gate. The caller walked the beach between the conference grounds and Buchanan Street without any luck before calling 911 at about 3:30 p.m.
It was a red flag day along the Lake Michigan shoreline and searchers were concerned that the boys may have gone for a swim. A red flag means dangerous swimming conditions in the lake.
Police and firefighters searched all of the streets and subdivision along the beach between Buchanan Street and Rosy Mound Drive. Searchers also noted that the boys were fond of going into the woods, so some of the firefighters were trekking cross country through the woods.
Soon after being called, police made contact with beachgoers who said they had seen the brothers, and the boys were planning to walk to the Rosy Mound area. That was at about 2 p.m., the beachgoers said.
Once the boys were found, officials radioed back to officers with the family. Friends and family members hugged and dried their tears as they waited for the ATV to make its way back to Buchanan Street.
The parents and grandparents rushed over to the ATV to hug the boys when they arrived back in the area shortly before 5:30 p.m.
After reuniting with their parents, the boys shook hands and hugged the closest sheriff’s deputy and Gerencer, thanking them for their help.
Their tearful mother, Renee Flick, thanked everyone who searched for her sons, who were visibly sunburned and thirsty when they returned.
“Thanks for all the prayers,” Andrew Flick added.