PLAINWELL, MI – On Thursday, April 6th, at 8:40 pm Allegan County Central Dispatch received a 911 call reporting a possible man in the Kalamazoo River yelling for help.
The caller told the dispatcher they believed the man was in the river near North Main Street in the City of Plainwell. On-duty law enforcement officers from the Plainwell Department of Public Safety, the Otsego City Police Department along with deputies from the Allegan County Sheriff’s Office responded to the call, where they confirmed that a male subject had in fact fallen into the river and fell victim to strong currents.
Rescue efforts began along various points of the river from downtown Plainwell to the area of the US-131 overpass. Life lines and rescue devices were utilized however the victim was unable to grab hold. The victim continued downstream to the area of 12th Street in Otsego Township where deputies from the Sheriff’s Office made additional attempts at rescue without success. Shortly after these attempts the victim no longer responded to the officers and disappeared from view.
During this time the Sheriff’s Office Dive / Rescue & Recovery Team along with the Marine Division was dispatched to the scene along with the Otsego Fire Department. Search efforts continued throughout the night utilizing watercraft in the river until shortly after midnight when the initial rescue efforts were suspended.
The Sheriff’s Office also received a report of a missing person from the Plainwell area shortly after this incident was reported to 911.
The cooperative investigation between the Sheriff’s Office and Plainwell Dept. of Public Safety revealed that the victim is suspected to be a Michael Joseph Baird, a 34 year old man from Englewood, CO, who was visiting relatives in the Plainwell area. Mr. Baird was reported as missing after failing to come home last night after a walk in Plainwell where he was known to visit the river.
As of Friday, April 7th7, 2017, search efforts resumed in the morning and continued into late afternoon where the operation was transitioned to recovery efforts.
Marine deputies and Dive Team personnel searched the river along with members of Allegan County’s Search & Rescue Team, a volunteer group dedicated to assisting public safety personnel. Members of the Otsego Fire Department also assisted by searching the river banks for the missing man.
Search operations consisted of both shore based and watercraft based searches of the river as well as a search by air with the assistance of the Michigan State Police Special Operations Aviation unit. At approximately 6:00 pm the Sheriff’s Office has temporarily suspended full-time recovery efforts until weather and water conditions improve.
Factors working against a successful recovery operation are extremely high water levels, swift currents and river hydrology, natural deadfall and debris in the water causing known and unknown hazards to divers and rescue personnel both above and below the water level. Members of the Sheriff’s Office will monitor water levels and environmental conditions daily to determine when operations can safely resume reducing substantial risk to personnel.
At this time the cause of this incident is unknown however is believed to be accidental.