TORCH LAKE — A man is dead after bystanders pulled him from Torch Lake following a swimming accident.
The Saturday incident began when a downstate man, joined by family and friends, took a visit to the inland hotspot.
The 57-year-old Allendale resident, Richard Church, was enjoying the lake and some drinks on the deck of a vintage boat that afternoon, according to an Antrim County Sheriff’s Department release.
That’s when Church, who Sheriff Dan Bean said had been drinking, dove off the boat and into the Torch Lake sandbar’s shallows.
Bean estimates the water at that location, near the sandbar’s north end, is no more than a “couple feet” deep.
Church hit the bottom and instantly fractured his neck.
Friends and family members watched his body float to the surface and leapt in to drag Church out. Bystanders called 911 at about 5:10 p.m., Bean said.
“It’s got to be devastating to watch a friend or a family member, for that to occur,” Bean said. “There’s no known reason why he jumped off the boat.”
Marine deputies patrolling the lake rushed to the scene. Meanwhile, a friend and a family member began performing CPR on Church, who was unconscious, the release states.
Deputies found a pulse and met EMS workers at a nearby boat launch where they departed for Traverse City’s Munson Medical Center.
Church died there Sunday. He joins a growing list people who have died in water-related incidents this year.
A 47-year-old Kalkaska man boating on the East Grand Traverse Bay earlier this month drowned after diving in to retrieve a drifting jet ski, Grand Traverse County Sheriff’s officials said previously.
Before that, rescue crews spent July 4 and 5 searching Green Lake for the body of 78-year-old Michael Emaus, who tried swimming back to shore from a broken-down pontoon boat. Just hours earlier, a 19-year-old was swept under while swimming with family at a Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore beach, according to park officials. Family members weren’t able to save him, and U.S. Coast Guard officers pulled him from 8 feet of water several minutes after he went under.
Investigators found Emaus just before heading in for the night. His girlfriend described him as an “avid swimmer” — something many drowning victims seemed to consider themselves, according to a recent interview with Dave Benjamin, of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. The nonprofit’s drowning statistics show that more than 65 percent of drowning victims considered themselves good swimmers, he said, and 80 percent were males, who Benjamin said tend to more enthusiastically take risks.