Water incident sparks safety concerns

An+onlooker+watches+waves+roll+in+near+Black+Rocks+in+Presque+Isle+Park.+As+the+season+changes%2C+Lake+Superior+becomes+more+unpredictable+and+officials+warn+swimmers+to+enjoy+the+lake+with+caution.+Last+October%2C+two+visitors+died+after+being+swept+off+Black+Rocks+during+a+storm.+%0APhoto+by+Jacob+Damer

An onlooker watches waves roll in near Black Rocks in Presque Isle Park. As the season changes, Lake Superior becomes more unpredictable and officials warn swimmers to enjoy the lake with caution. Last October, two visitors died after being swept off Black Rocks during a storm. Photo by Jacob Damer

Sophie Hillmeyer

NMU alum rescues student after jumping off Black Rocks into Lake Superior

A life saving rescue equipment station will be installed in the Black Rocks parking lot by the end of October and other stations that were damaged in storms will be replaced by that date as well. These actions were inspired by a recent incident at Black Rocks, as well as the ongoing dangers of Lake Superior.

On Sept. 6, certified lifeguard and NMU alumna Shawn Robinson-Sobczak noticed a swimmer in distress after jumping off of Black Rocks and was able to provide assistance to help the student stay above water and safely get to shore. The swimmer was inexperienced and unaware of the dangers, according to a press release.

The Marquette City Fire Department did not have to respond to this incident due to Robinson-Sobczak’s diligence, but they were notified of it so it could be documented, Ian Davis, Fire Chief of Marquette Fire Department said. Davis said there are always two to four rescue swimmers on duty, but situations requiring those services aren’t common thanks to efforts of bystanders, lifeguarded beaches, life saving stations and the flag system. A green flag signifies safe swimming conditions and a red flag signifies dangerous conditions.

Davis estimates the Marquette City Fire Department executes about four water rescues per year, depending on weather conditions.

NMU Police Department (NMUPD) Sgt. Thomas Parks noted how important knowledge of Lake Superior is for new students moving to the area.

“Seems like every year there’s at least one or two students who get involved with water incidents,” Parks said. “They’re not aware of how powerful that Lake Superior is. The lake can be unpredictable at any time.”

Parks said the respect required of swimmer for Lake Superior only increases in the fall, when there are a lot of storms producing large waves.

“[Swimmers] don’t always think about the risk before jumping in. There are a lot of undercurrents that could pull someone further out and get them deeper,” Parks said. “Lake Superior can be cold all year around and there’s danger at all times throughout the year. You’ve gotta be safe about it.”

Visitors to Lake Superior aren’t always familiar with how powerful the lake can be, Davis said. He noted the death of two people who were standing on Black Rocks during a heavy storm that produced 15-foot waves and swept them into the lake.

“People coming from outside the area don’t understand how strong the waves are,” Davis said. “It is not a good idea to get close to these waves.”

It is important for everyone to be diligent about safety around Lake Superior, Parks said.

“I advise students to look from a distance [during storms]. There’s no reason to venture out onto the rocks and be swept off,” Parks said. “Learn to respect
the lake.”