HURON, Ohio– As the search continues for a missing swimmer at Nickel Plate Beach in Huron, the young woman’s family and residents are demanding changes because the drowning Sunday was the second in two weeks.
At the city council meeting Tuesday night, it was standing-room only.
Several family members of 29-year-old Brittany Young left the beach, where they’ve been holding vigil since Sunday, to attend the meeting and address council.
“This was my only sister, she was the closest thing I had in this world,” Katy Homolya said. “I know deep within my heart my sister would be devastated… She would not rest until there are larger safety precautions at the beach to prevent this happening to any other family.”
The Vermillion natives were unaware of how quickly the lake could turn dangerous at the beach.
“That structural riptide created by the pier is extremely dangerous and it can change in a heartbeat, Sunday was perfect example,” said Greg Johnson at the meeting.
The tremendous undercurrent is created when winds shift out of the northeast and drive waves into the stone jettee that separates the entrance to the Huron River from the lake.
Theodore Terry, who’s lived here for more than four decades and has witnessed over two dozen deaths, said warning signs are not enough.
“It’s a beautiful beach. If we just ignore it, there’s just gonna be another death and another and another,” Terry said.
Family members and residents suggested adding life guards, roping off a shallow designated swimming area, a warning flag system and real-time monitoring equipment.
“This council and this city has an ethical and moral responsibility. If your’e gonna provide service, provide a safe service,” Johnson said.
Council members agreed with residents. City Manager Andrew White said the beach will remained closed indefinitely until the problem and solutions have been thoroughly researched. They’d already begun discussing safety improvements before Sunday’s tragedy.
Young’s mother, Maria Repko, said believes her daughter would still be alive if those steps were taken after 18-year-old Alvin Martin, of Ashland, drowned on July 7 while trying to rescue children from the waves.
“They`re aware. That beach should have never been reopened at all. I would still have my daughter or somebody else would still have their loved one,” Repko said.
Recovery efforts were called off Tuesday night because of lightning and inclement weather, but will resume Wednesday morning.
Firefighters told FOX 8 they’re “Throwing everything they have at it” to return Young to her family.
Sixty-two emergency workers initially responded. Divers and search boats have been looking ever since .
Repko sid the outpouring of support from family and the Huron community is what’s holding her up. One person has given her a cottage to use until this is over. Others have brought chairs, food and a cooler.
“We’re so thankful for everything,” Homolya said. “I just hope you (council) see it through, what she would want to help my family heal.”