In the 2020 summer season, the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office Marine Patrol reported four fatalities on area lakes this summer.
Along with fatalities, Sheriff Chris Swanson said this lake season was busier than past years with traffic. They issued more than 100 citations to boaters.
Four fatalities in one summer “is really unusual,” Swanson said.
The first was 17-year-old Lexi Simon of Fenton who was killed in a personal watercraft collision on Lake Fenton on Sunday, May 24. Genesee County Marine Patrol hosted two boater safety classes due to this, and classes were attended by more than 200 people.
Kristopher Ferenz, a man in his 50s drowned, on Lobdell Lake on Sunday, June 14. Argentine Township Police Chief Daniel Allen said the call for a person in the water came over at approximately 10 p.m. from the 1600 block of Whitehead Drive. The man had been drinking with his friend and fell in the water.
Max G. Lutz, 72, of Fenton Township, drowned in Lake Fenton on Friday, June 26. According to Fenton Township Fire Chief Ryan Volz, the man jumped into the lake with a floating noodle, where the water is approximately 50-foot deep.
He lost the noodle and his wife and a few passersby jumped into the water to help him. They got him onto a boat. After getting him to shore, Genesee County Sheriff’s deputies tried lifesaving measures for 40 minutes.
Ralph Roberts, 63, of Argentine Township, drowned in McKane Lake in Argentine Township on Sunday, July 26. Allen said Roberts reportedly jumped in the water and did not resurface.
Swanson said they had 15 calls for service through 911, they issued 164 warnings to boaters, and had 467 boat contacts, which are when police do safety inspections on boats and other watercrafts and talk with residents.
The county patrols seven lakes — Lake Fenton, Lake Ponemah/Squaw/Tupper, Lobdell lake, Pine Lake, Byram Lake, McKane Lake and Holloway Reservoir.
“The lakes were more crowded this year, considerably higher,” Swanson said. “Boat sales were through the roof and traffic was worse than ever before because people didn’t travel. It added to more people on lakes.”
He added that the “incredible” weather encouraged people to enjoy the lakes.
This was the first full summer that the Argentine Township Police Department was able to use its boat on township lakes. Allen said there were a few incidents this summer, including a boating accident on July 2 that resulted in minor property damage.
On July 31, a Lobdell Lake resident took a video of a person on a yellow Jet Ski who hit two swans, Allen said. The video, which doesn’t show the incident itself, shows the Jet Ski operator driving fast on the lake while swans swim near shore.
“I saw him purposefully go that way 10 feet, 20 feet from them, do a loop and come back and drive right through them and hit one,” the resident says in the video.
They’re still searching for the suspect and are hoping someone will come forward with information.
In the beginning of August, there was an incident at the Lobdell Lake boat launch when someone cut someone else off in the parking lot. Allen said one of them pulled a gun on the other. That person was arrested and charged with felonious assault.
Allen said there were a lot of personal watercraft complaints this year, and the marine patrol was able to stop a lot of personal watercraft operators and other kayakers who were not operating watercraft responsibly or legally.
“It worked out really well the first full year,” he said, adding that they didn’t give out any tickets because their focus was on educating people. “A lot of education. People not driving the proper direction on the lake, going too close to docks and swimmers. We saw super positive results. The residents loved the marine patrol.”