Tragedy close to home

Unfortunately a 42 year old woman is missing after she went into the St Joseph river to help her struggling 8 year old son who survived. About 5-6 miles from my house and near two previous incidents. They gave up the search for today and if I use any of my normal put-ins tomorrow…we’ll see.

I contacted the same local news station and recommended some safety tips since it kind of blew my mind to hear the reporter say “yeah it’s common for people to be out swimming and kayaking and enjoying the river” without one word about the importance of PFD’s and swimming skills for folks playing in the river.

I hope the link works since it shows the actual current; nothing crazy fast but strong enough to quickly wear down a swimmer.

1 Like

Sad they usually say little about safety after a tragedy here on Long Island. God bless her and her son.

Yes, enough current to wear down a swimmer & also hold you against any obstruction like a tree. I rather expect that the water is still a bit ‘cool’ as well. I did see the basic information on a MLive feed thas morning. Very sad.

I mention the water temp as I went up to Lake Lansing today & did my initial kayak wet exit after doing a lap around the lake. I didn’t have a thermometer along but I did find the water “rather refereshing” when I went under & I was wearing a dry suit & PFD.

Way to go Tom, contacting the media after what was probably a very preventable tragedy is a great idea.
Many years ago i taught elementary school in richmond indiana. Part of the physical education compnent was that every child got swimming lessons as part of their pe. Need that now as well, in many more places.

@rival51 - good point. Water temp around 60 is still plenty cold with no immersion protection.

@tdaniel - thank you for your comments. I’m hoping that the fact that a very similar incident happened less than 3 years ago and only a couple miles away makes the safety aspect more newsworthy.

I think it would be great if all kids had access to a pool and swimming lessons as part of their grade school curriculum.

@PaddleDog52 - not only did the reporter fail to mention safety but when they are standing next to the river and the current is clearly visible and they don’t mention it…had me yelling at the TV (like Jiminy Crickets look behind you!).

Last year we had several drowning deaths among kayakers and boaters in my region. I was amazed that the presence or lack of a PFD often wasn’t even mentioned. Not sure if it’s the police or news organizations that are responsible for that. I contacted a couple of reporters about PFD’s, spring water temps and cold water shock; the responses were either mild curiosity or nothing. Every spring like clockwork our local paper does a photo spread of people out recreating on the first really warm days, usually at least one with someone in a kayak and no PFD - makes me crazy.
@tdaniel - Richmond, IN? Lived there during my early elementary school years 60+ years ago across National Rd from Earlham College - my father taught there. Wasn’t canoeing yet but I owned those streets during the summer on my Schwinn! And that’s where I learned to swim.

1 Like

Unfortunately, tragedy sells newspapers and attracts TV ratings. Lessons on water safety does not.

1 Like

Does this count as “good coverage”?


Sad in so many ways. Good on you for contacting the media. FB groups are another way to remind people.

@sing - I’d say it’s not the worst coverage since they at least mention PFD’s a couple of times so the public at least has some chance to learn. But clearly the coverage could be better from a safety standpont. I think the more challenging question is - What would good coverage look like?

I’ve now spent some time with a local reporter and I’m pleased that they are listening and trying to do better regarding river safety.

So, I actually think it is a “good piece” in that it hit the issues of PFD and coldwater threat. If the media does this everytime we get a paddling incident, it would hit the points of safety gear and awareness for those reading about the (“tragic”) incident . This would parallel what is happening with the local coverage of rescue (or recovery) of hikers in the White Mountains. Because NH Fish & Game is now willing to levy penalities on those who venture into the mountains unprepared, almost every incident story involves some statements (info and education) about whether the hiker(s) being rescued were deemed sufficiently prepared in terms gear and planning and, thus, whether they would be charged for the rescue.

So, while we may want fuller discussions of paddling safety and challenges in all the stories, that may happen maybe once at the beginning of the (killing) seasons or in the first death. I doubt that it will be given the same amount of coverage space each and everytime something happens. I would be happy with consistent mention of PFDs and environmental conditions without getting into the full breadth of information and discussions/disagreements of the nuances that we get at an afficianado site like P-Com.


I totally agree that “less is more” regarding safety messaging. I appreciate the more comprehensive discussions that we have on this site since they are educational and help me focus my thoughts.

I was interviewed about this incident and mentioned the importance of swimming skills and that the only way to be safe is to wear a PFD.

My challenge to myself is to figure out better ways of making people understand the risks of the currents in the St Joseph. Yesterday I measured the river current where the latest incident happened and it was 4 mph. They picked the worst place to swim in the 20 miles between the last dam and Lake Michigan. But the water still looked smooth and quiet at 4 mph.

Coast Guard rescue swimmers need to be able to swim 500 yards in under 12 minutes. That’s 1.4 mph. So the calm-looking current is running 3 times faster than a coast guard swimmer. Side comment - I used to barely be able to meet this requirement wearing a speedo but if I wore a T-shirt I couldn’t do it since the added drag is so big.

Around here people have some sense for the dangers of the rip currents in Lake Michigan so maybe one approach is to simply point out that the river currents are just as strong and just as dangerous for exactly the same reasons. The lowest risk day on the St Joseph river is still a Yellow Flag (medium risk) day!