Rip current deaths prove strength of Lake Michigan

World-renowned surgeon one of victims

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By Ryan Klund - rklund@abc57.com

BERRIEN COUNTY, Mich. - Two Illinois men are dead after a dangerous Sunday on Lake Michigan.

The U.S. Coast Guard and local police endured strong waves in two spots along Berrien County’s coast Sunday during the recovery of two bodies lost under 8-foot waves.

“Unless you’re from here, I don’t think you realize how powerful Lake Michigan is,” said Saint Joseph Director of Public Safety Mark Clapp Monday. “It’s extremely powerful.”

According to Clapp, at 12:30 p.m. 41-year-old Anthony Kelly, on vacation from Montgomery, Illinois, was jumping the waves at Tiscornia Beach in Saint Joseph. Witnesses said they heard him cry for help. “He went under about three times, came back up and the last time was under,” said Clapp.

A second body was recovered earlier Sunday about twenty miles south at Cherry Beach in Harbert.

“All of a sudden you got hit with a wave and then you get hit with another wave and you’re thinking ‘how do I stay above the water?’” recalled Wally Bruner of the lake conditions at Cherry Beach. “When you get out there it is just so dangerous.”

Police said 50-year-old Dr. Donald Liu, Chief Surgeon at the University of Chicago Children’s Hospital attempted to rescue two distressed children in the waves before emergency crews arrived. The children made it back to shore but Liu did not.

“He was literally saving children’s lives as his job,” said fellow University of Chicago surgeon John Alverdy. “If we could talk to him now and say ‘what happened?’ He would probably say ‘I was just doing my job.’”

Liu was vacationing in Berrien County for the weekend.

“If the conditions are rough, you should stay out of the water,” said Clapp.

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