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Mock drowning, life-saving drills held at Silver Beach

ABC57’s Taylor Popielarz rode along with the U.S. Coast Guard in St. Joe, Michigan Monday afternoon as they participated in life-saving training exercises.

With the flick of a switch inside the St. Joe Coast Guard office, a water rescue was underway Monday afternoon.

After being dispatched to save “Two females, at the middle tower on Silver Beach,” the Coast Guard boat jumped into action, quickly making its way out to the waters that hug Silver Beach.

A bumpy ride in choppy water led the boat to the two “victims” in distress.

A rope was tossed out to them, and in seconds, they were dragged on board to safety.

Coast Guard officers began administering CPR to a simulation dummy aboard the boat as it headed back to dock.

“Come chaos, when things are going chaotic, it’s good to know what agencies are gonna do,” Executive Petty Officer at the St. Joe Coast Guard Station Lazaro Lopez said. “That way we can rely on each other and we also can utilize this to the best ability for our community.”

Monday’s exercises were a simulation – a mock drowning that allows Silver Beach lifeguards, local officials and the U.S. Coast Guard to train together.

“We’re trying to strengthen our maritime partnerships with the local agencies,” Lopez said. “That way, in an event of an emergency, we’re all working together; it’s not the first I’m seeing or they’re seeing our face or knowing how we operate.”

The ride on the Coast Guard boat offered a glimpse at just how rough Lake Michigan waters can get.

“This is an inland sea; in some cases it’s worse than the ocean,” Berrien County Parks Director Brian Bailey, who attended Monday’s exercises, said.

Though Silver Beach lifeguards put up flags to warn swimmers of rough conditions, the lake still deceives people, making drills like this necessary.

“As we continue to do these [drills], we’re only gonna continue to get better and better, meaning we’re gonna be a better response for our community here in St. Joseph,” Lopez said.

Lopez recommends beachgoers and boaters download the ‘U.S. Coast Guard’ app on your smartphone for tips and advice about staying safe at the beach.

He also said the best way to reach the U.S. Coast Guard, if you find yourself in need of help, is to call 9-1-1. 

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