Grand Haven Tribune  August 21, 2003

Teen dies following pier jumping incident

By Kyle Moroney

   The Norton Shores teenager who was pulled out of choppy waters at the Grand Haven State Park on Tuesday died Wednesday afternoon.

   Scott Allen Smith, 17, had been jumping off the south pier head Tuesday afternoon with a 25-year-old Muskegon man, Gerrit Andrus, when he and Andrus became fatigued while in the water about 30 feet from the pier and were unable to reach the pier due to the waves and undertow, police said.

   At 12:20 p.m., Ottawa County Central Dispatch and the U.S. Coast Guard Group Grand Haven received a called that three people were jumping of the south pier near shore and called for help, Ottawa County Sheriff's Lt. Steve Kempker said.

   Montague resident Danielle Barret, 15, jumped into the water with an inner tube to help Smith, Grand Haven Department of Public Safety Lt. Brad Risher said.

   Risher said it is unknown at this time whether Barret was jumping off the pier with Smith and Andrus.

   Kempker said that when the Coast Guard arrived at the scene, Smith was being held in the water by Andrus and several bystanders.

   One of the bystanders, 57-year-old Barb Jerovsek of Grand Haven, was on her daily run at the time of the incident and dove in to help Smith before any rescue units arrived at the scene.

   While in the water near Smith, Jerovsek said she was able to get a couple breaths into his nose and when the Coast Guard came, she held Smith's arm up so the Coast Guard could reach him and pull him out of the water.

   "He started slipping as he was getting on the Coast Guard boat," she said, noting that Smith did slip from the people who were holding onto him and briefly went under water before they actually got him onto the boat. "I held his arm up out of the water until the Coast Guard said they had him and pulled him out of the water."

   Upon the Coast Guard's arrival, Smith was unresponsive and not breathing.

   Smith, who had been pulled out of the water and had CPR administered by the Coast Guard, was taken to North Ottawa Community Hospital where he remained stabilized, and he was later flown to Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids by AeroMed helicopter, Kempker said.

   Andrus and Barret were treated and released from NOCH.

   Ottawa County Sheriff's Department said they were notified by the Kent County Medical Examiner's office that Smith, son of Karen and Scott Smith, died at about 1 p.m. Wednesday at Butterworth Hospital.

   Kempker said the incident remains under investigation by the sheriff's department.

   Coast Guard Lt. Rebecca Heatherington said Tuesday was a cautionary yellow flag day with waves between one to two feet and winds of five to 10 knots.

   "It's dangerous to be jumping off the pier in any condition. You can't see the bottom of the water, there are rocks, lifeguards are not on duty, and you're outside the normal swimming zone where there is boating traffic," she said Wednesday, noting that the currents drive the waves and could pull someone "out to sea."

   "It's just not safe," Heatherington said.

   Although there is not a sign posted at the Grand Haven State Park's pier that prohibits people from swimming around or jumping off of the pier, the Lakeshore Safe Kids Coalition does have a posted sign that advises: "Do not dive off or swim around pier structures."

   The sign is posted within the state park just north of the pier. However, anyone walking along the boardwalk and approaching the south pier head would not see the Lakeshore Safe Kids Coalition sign because it faces toward the state beach area.

   The Marine Safety Act, which is not posted, states that "when wind conditions on the Great Lakes attain a magnitude by one-third of the waves cause any public dock, pier, wharf, or retaining wall to be awash, it constitutes a state not conducive to the orderly and safe use and occupancy of those structures. ... A person shall not knowingly enter or remain upon any public dock, pier, wharf, or retaining wall for the purpose of fishing, swimming or other recreational activity when the structure is roped, cabled or otherwise barricaded in a manner designed to exclude intruders, when notice against entry is given by posting in a conspicuous manner or when notice to leave or stay off is personally communicated to that person by a peace or police officer or other authorized official of the local government."

   The Marine Safety Act took in effect May 1995.

   "As you can see, it does not prohibit people from jumping off of the pier, except during times of extreme wave conditions and when barricaded by an officer," GHDPS Capt. Daniel Shaw stated in an e-mail.

   Clock Funeral Home, 3593 E. Pontaluna Road, Fruitport is handling the funeral arrangements. Funeral directors were expected to meet with the family today.