Teen drowns in lake; officials stress water safety: ‘People don’t realize what riptides are’

Published: May. 24, 2022 at 3:59 PM EDT
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MILWAUKEE (WDJT) - A teenager has recently drowned in Lake Michigan and officials said the area is short on lifeguards.

Milwaukee fireboats were in the water for just eight minutes after getting a 911 call and located the teen girl two minutes later.

“Once the individual was placed on the fireboat, we began life-saving measures,” said Milwaukee Fire Department Battalion Chief Captain Joel Rechlitz.

But life-saving measures proved unsuccessful, and the girl from Milwaukee became the latest drowning victim.

“It’s a concern for us because, especially with Lake Michigan and the history here at McKinley, there are riptides,” Rechlitz said.

As pools and beaches prepare to open for the summer, there is a critical shortage of lifeguards.

Despite vigorous recruiting efforts over the past six months, Milwaukee County Parks reports it has hired just 60 lifeguards, far short of the 200 needed.

Monday afternoon, a group of applicants started an express training session at the Pulaski pool.

“My dad was a lifeguard, and I feel like following in his footsteps. He told me it’s very serious. Encouraged me to come to a couple of these classes,” said lifeguard trainee Joseph McEvilly.

Due to the shortage, they’ll cram three weeks of training into one week, with a final test on Saturday.

“I really want to help people, like in the medical industry. So, I thought this could be my step up to see what it would be like when I’m older,” said lifeguard trainee Aiden Connors.

In June, five splash pads, nine wading pools, and four outdoor pools will all open. But again, this summer, no lifeguards will be posted at Bradford Beach.

“I commend people who are doing the outdoor lifeguarding because that is a step up from this. They are doing way more intensive training than we are,” said lifeguard trainee Areanna Walker.

McKinley Park Beach will remain closed while a study on rip currents continues, according to emergency personnel.

“People don’t realize what riptides are, and how dangerous they are, and how once you get in that cycle, you can drown pretty easy,” Rechlitz said.

Officials have not identified the drowning victim, but the medical examiner’s office reports an autopsy has been planned.

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