2017 was a deadly year on the Great Lakes.

The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project (GLSRP) says in 2017, the group tracked 88 drownings.

Overall since 2010, the GLSRP has tracked 625 Great Lakes drownings.

“We must do better,” said Bob Pratt, GLSRP Executive Director. “Education, Engineering and Emergency Response are key.”

“There have been too many lives lost since 2010 on our beautiful Great Lakes,” said Melisa Zirkle, GLSRP Board Member. “And my son is one of them because we didn’t understand lake currents.”

“Knowledge is power, and I wish I had known drowning prevention four years, five months, and twenty days ago” added Zirkle.

Zirkle’s son, Jermaine, drowned in a Lake Erie structural current July 12, 2013. Jermaine knew how to swim. He was an athlete; strong and smart and happy. 

“He didn’t even like going in the lake,” Zirkle added.  “But he did that day. He went in because he wanted to – that one time – and that was all it took.”

“I grew up on this lake, but I never had the knowledge to pass on to him about the currents” said Zirkle. “My parents both grew up along this lake. We just never knew.” 

Zirkle now advocates water safety with the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project and is assisting the GLSRP to perform water safety presentations in schools in Ohio.

In 2015, she received the National Drowning Prevention Alliance “Lifesaver of the Year” award for her water safety advocacy, and in 2016 she received the “Superhero of the Year” award presented by the Great Lakes Water Safety Consortium.