The family of a St. Charles man who died saving his son, nephew and three nieces off the coast of Lake Michigan has received a $400,000 settlement and assurances from officials in a southwestern Michigan town that they will put in place heightened safety measures.
Marty Jordan, who was 45, drowned during the early evening of Aug. 1, 2009, after rescuing his five young relatives from strong rip currents near South Haven, Mich., where his family was vacationing.
Jordan, a social worker for 25 years, was overcome by strong waves and riptides after bringing to shore the children who were struggling in the dangerous waters.
His widow, Maureen Jordan, said Friday she's pleased that the settlement with the city of South Haven has resulted in the placement of 911 call boxes and notification flags that warn of dangerous swimming conditions at city beaches.
"I feel we've been able to make that beach so much safer for the many people from Michigan and Illinois who go there every year," Jordan said.
The settlement agreement, signed by Jordan and officials from the city of South Haven last month, is the result of a lawsuit Jordan brought against the city in 2011.
Jordan said there were signs at the beach in 2009 that "there was a potential for rip currents at any time," but there was no additional communication to the hundreds of beachgoers that evening that the National Weather Service had issued a riptides warning. In fact, South Haven emergency responders had received several other rescue calls earlier in the day because of the lake currents.
Under the settlement agreement, South Haven officials agree to display a red flag at beaches when lake conditions are considered "extremely dangerous" for swimming and waves are over 4 feet high; a yellow flag when lake conditions are "moderately dangerous" and waves are between 2 and 4 feet high; and a green flag when lake conditions "are generally
considered safe for swimming."
Jordan said she believes that had the flag warning system been in place before, her husband would still be alive today.
"Had we seen yellow flags or red flags, we wouldn't have gone in the water," she said.
The settlement also contains a provision that South Haven will place a plaque or memorial near the beach where he died. A dedication ceremony will also be held, and the Jordan family will be invited to attend.
Maureen Jordan said the memorial wasn't requested by the family but is a nice gesture. She said other family members will attend the ceremony, but she personally doesn't want to go back to the beach.
"I don't have terrible feelings, but I'm also sensitive to my children. I don't want to retraumatize them," Jordan said. "It makes us happy there will be something there. The most important thing is that there are the flags and call boxes and much better signage. There's a system in place finally."