Police search for man who fell into Kalamazoo River between Otsego and Plainwell

By: 
Daniel Pepper

Police are searching the Kalamazoo River Friday, April 7, between Otsego and Plainwell for a man who was seen in the river last night and is feared dead.

According to the Allegan County Sheriff’s Office, they believe the man they are searching for is Michael Baird, 34, who went for a walk Thursday, April 6, in downtown Plainwell around 8 p.m., according to family members.

A resident of the Oaks Assisted Living Facility on North Main Street in Plainwell reported someone calling for help, police said, and officers rushed to the river, getting sight of a man in the water being pulled downstream near the US-131 bridge over the river.

Two sheriff’s deputies then saw a man in the water at the former site of the Plainwell Dam, at the end of 12th Street in Otsego Township.

Sgt. Todd Wagner said, “They threw a rope and life ring to him and he didn’t move.”

Wagner, the dive master of the Allegan County Sheriff’s Office Dive/Rescue and Recovery team, said the deputies had also shouted to the man in the water with no response.

“People who are in a cold water situation, the hypothermia can set in very fast and then they can be very unresponsive,” Wagner said.

Based on his knowledge of hypothermia, Wagner said it was possible the man hadn’t even been aware there was anyone there trying to help him.

The dive team planned to assess the situation and search from the banks starting in the area where Baird was last scene last night.

The river’s conditions—very high and fast from rain and snow runoff and still rising—make it hazardous to even put a boat in the water, let alone a diver.

“This is the worst case scenario,” Wagner said.

He said he’d spoken to family members and told them officers would have to perform an assessment of the risk to themselves and their fellow officers of searching the river and the likelihood of finding Baird.

Wagner said no one had any information about hoe the man got into the river, but said he’d been told Baird, who was staying with his grandmother for a time in Plainwell after moving from Colorado, often walked along and looked at the river. Wagner said they speculated he might have leaned over the North Main Street Bridge in Plainwell for a better look and fell in.

He said it’s possible they may have to wait until the water goes down to conduct an underwater search and said similar conditions on the river in Calhoun County were hampering the search for a man who drove into the river in Battle Creek in February.

Contact Dan Pepper at dpepper@allegannews.com or at (269) 673-5534 or (269) 685-9571.

 

 

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