Grand Haven Daily Tribune July 27, 1925


Jens Johanson, Age 26, Member of Grand Haven
Carferry  Crew Drowns While Swimming
Man Was Swimming Alone
Over Thousand Feet From Shore

    Jens Johanson, age 26, a member of the engine room crew of the Grand Trunk carferry Grand Haven, lying at dock here for inspection and repairs, drowned in Lake Michigan yesterday afternoon about three thirty while swimming at the State Park bathing beach.

   Johanson was claimed as a good swimmer and was disporting alone in the water about a thousand feet from shore when he encountered difficulty, presumed to be cramps.  His struggles were noticed by  by a few people who frantically signaled the United States Coast Guard for help.  The Coast Guards under Capt. Preston immediately responded.

Do Fast Work

   The power lifeboat went to the scene of the accident and started efforts to recover the body.  Within thirty minutes after the drowning, the body was was taken from the lake and efforts were made to resuscitate the man.  The work was done by coast guards and Dr. S. L. DeWitt was unsuccessful and the body was taken to the Kiel Mortuary.

   Johnson was drowned in about 18 feet of water and was alone, quite a distance from shore.  Capt. Preston has issued a warning to swimmers to observe the rules of common sense for safety while at the lake for swimming and not to go in the water to swim any distance unless they are really fit.

Parents in Norway

   Johanson was said to have been a water tender aboard the carferry.  No arrangeュments for his funeral have been made although a sister, living in Minnesota will be notified as soon as her address is known.  The man's parents are living in Norway, it is stated.




   The first fatality in several years occurred Sunday at a local bathing beach.  A young sailor, a powerful swimmer was the victim, because he took too great chances, over-estimating the dangers of the big lake as a swimming place.  It is said that the young swimmer plunged from the south pier of the government harbor revetment with the idea of swimming along the shore as far as Highland Park.  When about eight hundred foot from the pier, the young swimmer sank.  Just what happened to cause the accident may always remain a mystery.  Whether he was seized by a cramp, or whether the choppy seas worried him to such an extent that he exhausted himself trying to struggle against them, is not known.  He was all alone when the lake claimed him and there was not one chance in a thousand of rescuing him.

   As soon as the swimmer's plight was discovered , the U.S. Coast Guard Station on the north side of the channel was notified.  The crew launched a boat and hurried out of the harbor and around the south pier with all possible dispatch.  There was then no trace of the swimmer, and the coast guards were compelled to work blindly over the place, where the unfortunate man was last seen swimming.  Perhaps twenty-five minutes elapsed before the body was brought to the surface.  All efforts at resuscitation failed of course, although the coast guards and a physician worked unceasingly for a long time.

   The unfortunate young sailor, who was a member of the crew of the carferry Grand Haven, took a chance and lost.  Accustomed to the water, and with the confidence of youth, he set out on an adventure, which he had little doubt as to his ability to carry through.

   Today he is a tragic lesson to warn off those who have no fear of the deep water.  His young body, magnificent in physical power, is still in death because of that lack of fear of the danger of the water.  Yet he was no different than hundreds of other young people who frequent  popular resort  places like Grand Haven.  All of them take chances every day, and many times escape death by an extremely narrow margin.

   Very frequently one sees young swimmers venture far out beyond the safety lines at the Lake Michigan bathing beaches.  Those who watch from the shore realize, how dangerous is the venture.  But those who swim get farther than they realize.  When they begin their return swim they find the distance  very great back to shore.  Many a venturesome swimmer struggles back to shore with barely enough reserve strength to reach safety.  Had their been an undertow, any current at all, or choppy sea, the effort might not have been so successful.

   While it is doubtful, if the victim of yesterday's tragedy could have been saved in any event, there would have been a better chance for successful resuscitation, if the body could have been recovered sooner.  Whether the employment of beach guards at the state park could have averted the tragedy is not known, of course, but their might have been a better chance at least.  As far as is known there are no specially detailed guards on duty at any time at Highland Park or at the State Park beaches.  Life lines have been strung along the shore line, but the diving platforms are further out in deep water.  Should a swimmer, not understanding the tricks of the lake swells and currents, get in trouble outside the life lines , with no one near him, their might be another tragedy similar to that of yesterday.

   The U.S. Coast Guard station on the north side of the channel is too far away to assure protection to swimmers on the south beach, some of them a mile away or more from the harbor.   Yesterday's accident indicates how well they can work, even under the handicap of distance.  However, it indicates how much more could have been accomplished toward protecting the lives of bathers at the beaches, had the new station been built on the south side of the channel as was strongly urged a short time ago.

   It is not to be denied, however, that U.S. Coast Guards, beach patrols, etc. cannot assure protection to over-venturesome swimmers, who have no fear of deep water, canoeists and daring occupants of sailboats, rowboats and launches.  The danger of the deep water, the lake and the river, cannot be too strongly impressed upon the minds of those who play upon them.  Here is one place in which it never pays to take a chance.