FRANKFORT — Windsurfers, kite-boarders and surfers flocked to Frankfort’s pier Monday, their sails a backdrop to the mass of deputies, firefighters and divers preparing to search the waters.
They sought the body of a 12-year-old Tennessee boy who Benzie County Sheriff Ted Schendel said was washed off the pier around 1 p.m. Monday.
By 4 p.m., any hopes he had of a live rescue had faded.
“It’s recovery now,” Schendel said from the scene. “He’s been in far too long.”
The boy is the oldest of three washed off the pier Monday. The siblings were strolling along the landmark with their grandmother, who also hails from Tennessee, Schendel said. The family was visiting northern Michigan on vacation.
A strong wave pulled the young ones into the water.
Their grandmother jumped in and was able to pull the youngest sibling to safety, while the middle child managed to climb out.
“A big wave came along out by the lighthouse,” Schendel said. “The weather’s horrible.”
The afternoon’s rough surf proved a challenge for rescue efforts, too.
National Weather Service Meteorologist Andy Sullivan said the winds indeed were strong and waves, choppy along Lake Michigan’s eastern coast Monday.
He reported winds reaching 15 mph and gusts hitting 25 mph.
Wave heights measured 4 to 7 feet, Sullivan added.
“So, choppy conditions,” he said.
Sullivan noted a hazardous beach conditions advisory was in effect for Frankfort-area coasts that afternoon.
“You can’t see anything,” said Schendel, who oversaw the efforts. “He could be lodged beneath the pier — we wouldn’t be able to get to him until it really calms down and we can put divers in.”
For the sheriff and his crew, it makes for a tough day.
“We don’t wanna be out here doing what we’re doing right now — we’d rather have everybody safe and sound,” he said. “People’ve gotta use common sense when they’re out on that pier, and (Monday) was not the day to be out there.”
Tuesday’s conditions could prove another challenge. Schendel said crews would be heading out first thing to continue search efforts.
A U.S. Coast Guard official declined comment on the ongoing matter, but said further information would be made available shortly. A call to the Frankfort Fire Department was not immediately returned Monday.
See updates at www.record-eagle.com.