MUSKEGON, Mich. (July 2, 2014) — 53-year-old Vincent Jones of Muskegon has been identified by police as the man found dead in Muskegon Lake Tuesday night following an intensive two hour search.
Muskegon police responded only after family members of Jones said he had been unaccounted for since earlier that day when he first set off on the lake to fish for the afternoon. Jones’ vehicle was found parked at the Grand Trunk Launch Ramp.
Jones was found unresponsive at around 11:15 in Muskegon Lake, north of the channel of Great Lakes Marina. His kayak was found abandoned on the shoreline near the Lakeshore Yacht Harbor.
The two-hour search proved more difficult for authorities because of the darkness and conditions on the water at the time. Officers from the Muskegon Police Department, County Sheriff’s Office, Firefighters from the Muskegon Fire Department, Norton Shores Fire Department, and members of the U.S. Coast Guard all aided in the search.
“You have to look at every inch or your going to miss something,” said Chief Jeffrey Lewis of the Muskegon Police Dept. “Obviously at night the difficulty of the winds, the darkness, the changing conditions, at some point you have to call it.”
And Lewis says they were close to calling it a night when they found Jones.
Jones was a novice kayaker, only take the boat out on his own once before, according to Lewis. Police also saying Jones wasn’t wearing a life jacket when they found him and they weren’t able to locate one in his abandoned kayak.
“This gentleman was in his 50s, and that can be a real strain trying to make it back to shore with those kinds of winds when you’re not used to that, you’re not in shape and you don’t have a flotation device on,” Lewis said. “Your chances of not surviving are greatly increased.”
With the holiday weekend approaching and many in West Michigan planning to head to the beaches and lakes, police and coast guard using this awful tragedy as a jumping off point to remind others to stay safe when heading out onto the water.
“Any time you’re operating on a vessel, on the water, if you’re not a strong swimmer, out there by yourself, it’s always a good idea to put safety first,” said Petty Officer Coleman Aldrich with the U.S. Coast Guard.
Aldrich recommending people make a “float plan” before heading out to make sure people know where you’re going and how long you’ll be, that way if something goes wrong, rescuers have a better idea of where to search.
“The sooner we get the info, the sooner we can get out there and do our job,” he said.
This is the second drowning this season in just the past couple weeks to happen on Muskegon Lake. Chief Lewis says both might’ve been prevented had the victims been wearing their life jackets.
“You know it’s very tragic, we’ve had two drownings in the last couple weeks here in Muskegon Lake, and one thing that was common with both of those is both individuals did not have flotation devices on,” he said.
19-year-old Darren Raby drowned on June 21 after police say he swam into water that was more than 20 feet deep.
An autopsy is scheduled for the body of Vincent Jones to determine exact cause of death.