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Shelby Township

Young woman drowns in Clinton River

Fourth drowning in Macomb County concerns officials

July 15, 2014

At approximately 6:05 p.m. July 14, Shelby Township police received a call that a 21-year-old woman from Madison Heights, who had been swimming in a secluded location of the Clinton River at River Bends Park, did not resurface.

The Shelby Township Fire Department’s Rapid Water Rescue Team responded immediately and searched the river for approximately two hours, said Fire Chief Jim Swinkowski. At 8:10 p.m., divers recovered her body 300 yards from where she entered the water.

According to a release from Shelby Township Police Capt. Stephen Stanbury, a male caller reported that he and two female friends had been swimming in the river at the time of the victim’s disappearance. River Bends Park is located on the south side of 22 Mile Road, east of Shelby Road.

“It was a long walk in the woods on a footpath to where they were,” Swinkowski said. “They had been at this one little area of the river all day hanging out, having fun. At one point, she became distressed and disappeared.”

He said the area of the river where the group had been recreating was about 3 feet deep, but just beyond it the river dropped to a depth of about 8 feet and that there were holes in the current. Divers found her body trapped beneath a logjam near the side of the river in about 4 feet of water, he said.

Swinkowski said about 10 members of the victim’s and witnesses’ families and friends showed up Monday evening during the search. He said loved ones obviously held out hope that the victim might have climbed the bank to safety or been holding onto a fallen tree trunk.

“It was tense. Obviously, we were in search mode and concentrating on the task at hand,” he said. He added that about six fire personnel were in the water and about another six searched along the shore. “Reality sets in at a certain point and you know it becomes more of a recovery effort.”

This is the third drowning in the span of one and a half months that Shelby Township dive teams responded to this summer, Swinkowski said. He added that, to his knowledge, so many drownings in a short period is unprecedented and that it is tough on his guys.

From June 1-July 7, two men drowned in Stony Creek Metropark, and a Shelby Township man drowned in Lake St. Clair. Monday’s incident is the fourth reported drowning in Macomb County this year.

“When you’re at Stony Creek or down at the (Lake St. Clair) Metropark or the river, or any body of water, it’s dangerous and has to be treated with respect,” Swinkowski said.

He cautioned that the dynamics of the Clinton River change on a weekly basis after every rainfall. He also said seaweed could be a hazard, as it is difficult to see and a person could become entangled.

“Alcohol doesn’t mix well with anything — operating a machine or swimming in the water. It relaxes you too much and it’s never a good mix,” Swinkowski added. “I’m not saying it has anything to do with these incidents.”

He also advised wearing proper floatation devices while boating, kayaking or canoeing and utilizing designated swimming areas correctly.

“Kayaking in groups or swimming at the beach can be fun, but when you start trying to see what you can do to increase your excitement, that’s when it gets dangerous.”

About the author

Staff Writer Sarah Wojcik covers Shelby Township and Utica for the Shelby-Utica News. Sarah has worked for C & G Newspapers since 2013 and attended Oakland University. She won a first place 2013 Excellence in Journalism award for open government reporting and a second place 2014 Excellence in Journalism award for a series of explanatory stories from the Detroit chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

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