ALLEGAN COUNTY, Mich. — Thursday evening, people in downtown Plainwell told deputies they heard a man yelling for help in the Kalamazoo River. Miles away in Otsego, police spotted him.
“Our deputies did locate the individual floating on the water,” said Allegan County Sgt. and Marine Administrator Todd Wagner. “They threw him life preserver and a rope, however he was unresponsive. That was our last seen point.”
Deputies, police, along with the local fire and rescue crews worked all night to locate him, Wagner said, until 1:30 in the morning Friday. However, it was unsuccessful. They resumed this morning at 8 a.m.
“Right now the river is moving between 8 and 12 miles an hour, which is extremely strong,” said Sgt. Wagner. “Less than 2 miles an hour can knock a person standing in the water off their feet.”
Crews spent the day going up and down the Kalamazoo river looking for the man. Some of the first responders were on boats while others walked along the river banks looking under large branches and trees. Michigan State Police jumped in on the search using their helicopters to examine the waters from above. They’re now considering the search to be a recovery operation.
“The air is cold,” said Wagner. “The water is extremely cold and when you have somebody that drowned, that plays against the chemistry affects of the body in the water.”
Family of the man — who’s been identified as 34-year-old Michael Baird of Colorado — told authorities he’d been staying with them since Christmastime and was looking for work. While here he enjoyed taking walks along the river. Wagner agreed that most people do the same, especially when the weather is nice. But it’s always best to play it safe near any body of water.
“It’s not uncommon to follow sidewalk paths,” said Wagner. “Don’t go beyond that. Don’t go beyond the barriers to the water because the ground may be wet. There may be slimes, something that can cause you to slip and fall.”