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Community Responds After More Drownings Happen In South Haven

Red flags flying at the beach ban people from going in the water during dangerous conditions, and violators can be fined one thousand dollars.

The four people that drowned in South Haven over the last four weeks all went into the water when yellow flags were flying, or when the ordinance that aims to prevent drownings couldn't be enforced.

When the city manager was asked if South Haven is looking to change anything she said lifeguards aren't being considered.

It's been quieter in South Haven, as waves on South Beach are calmer, leaving more people at ease.

Others, like Pat and Erin O'Hearn are still grappling over the tragedy they watched unfold here just yesterday.

"We saw the folks actually being pulled from the water literally not even 50 yards from here. They started working on them right away as hard as they could," said Pat and Erin O'Hearn, who witnessed the drownings.

First responders rushed to the shoreline and immediately began CPR on a man and woman pulled from the water.

"Very surreal. Not a person was moving on the beach. We just sat down here and said a prayer for those families and for those kids," said Pat and Erin O'Hearn.

The flags above them were flying yellow. The beach and waters – are still open. The same as they were less than a month ago when two other people drowned, including a 7-year-old boy.

"It was a traumatic event and it's a tragedy," said South Haven City Manager Kate Hosier. "Our hearts here, are heavy with sadness for that family."

When asked if the South Haven Area Emergency Services Authority or the city should be taking more accountability for being looser with putting red flags up, here's what Hosier said:

"We want to make sure that people actually follow the red flags, so you want to make sure that they are adhearing to the conditions," said Hosier. "If you put a red flag out there always, people will never follow a red flag. So, you want to make sure that the conditions follow the flag notifications."

The city has multiple water safety enforcements in place including the flag system, signage, and fines, and just last week, the city implemented this life jacket loaner station.

Red flags went up about an hour after the people who drowned were pulled from the water.

Police say they issued a criminal charge to a mother for letting her teens swim when the flags were red.

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