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Warm summer brings record number of Lake Michigan drownings

HOLLAND, Mich. (WZZM)- The state park in Holland has not suffered a drowning yet this summer, but the Ottawa County Sheriff's Marine Division Chief fears that could change before summer ends.

"I'm very concerned," Sgt. Keith Koeman said Friday.

Warm, sunny days have brought Lake Michigan water temperatures to above 70 degrees for over a month.  Combine that with a large number of no-swim "red flag" days, and the result has been a record number of drowning deaths in the big lake.

21 of the 65 deaths have been attributed to rip currents that can exhaust even strong swimmers.  Many beaches have posted information on dealing with rip currents.  Sgt. Koeman says swimmers caught in a rip current should let it carry them out and swim parallel to the shore until they escape.

Michigan officials seek help for trumpeter swan census

(AP)- Michigan wildlife officials are seeking the public's help to determine how many trumpeter swans live in the state.

It's part of a census covering the entire continent.

Trumpeter swans historically nested in wetlands across the U.S., but hunting and habitat loss nearly drove them extinct in the late 1800s. Restoration efforts in Michigan began a century later.

A count in 2004 turned up 655 trumpeters statewide. The greatest numbers are found in the eastern Upper Peninsula. They're still listed as a threatened species.

The Department of Natural Resources and Environment is asking people to report sightings of trumpeter swans in August and September. They should not be confused with mute swans, which have bright orange bills while trumpeters have black bills.

UPDATE: Homeowner killed in Holland Township house fire

HOLLAND TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WZZM)-Investigators are working to determine the cause of an explosive house fire that killed one man.

It happened shortly before noon Sunday at a home in the 14000 block of Foxtrail Drive in Holland Township. Witnesses say they heard an explosion before the flames started. By the time firefighters arrived, the home was fully involved. It took crews about an hour to knock down the flames. The sheriff's department says a 27-year-old man safely escaped, but his father, who owned the home, could not.

"[The younger man] is emotional," said Lieutenant Steve Kempker of the Ottawa County Sheriff's Department. "He did attempt to go back in [the home], but again was forced back out by the flames and smoke in the house."

After waiting hours to stabilize the home, investigators were finally able to enter it, and found the 49-year-old man's body inside. They're withholding his name while they notify relatives.

World War II veteran gets medals in Holland

HOLLAND, Mich. (WZZM)- A West Michigan WWII veteran was honored Monday with one of our country's highest honors.

Ray Barrett of Holland Township was awarded the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart and several other awards because of his service in the military.

His family says the medals were given to Barrett 64-years ago, but were misplaced or broken while he was recovering from his injuries.

Barrett says, "An artillery shell exploded up in the air and there was another soldier as close as you are to me. He didn't get any pieces. I got two. One in the corner of my eye. I only have one eye. The other, broke my leg."

Barrett received his medals at the office of Congressman Pete Hoekstra, who helped get the family a full set for safe-keeping.

When asked what the medals meant to Barrett, he would only say that it was a difficult time in his life and would prefer to forget about the war.

Hot Holland salsa winners

HOLLAND, Michigan - As the sun came out last Saturday, August 21, so did the heat at the third annual Salsa Showdown at the Holland Farmers Market! A total of 17 teams entering the salsa-making competition from across West-Michigan, making salsas on-site using fresh ingredients from the Market. In addition, nine fearless contestants entered the Jalapeno Eating Contest, to see who could eat the most peppers in a three-minute period.

Zeeland East Chix and Zeeland West Dux covet 2010 playoff berths

ZEELAND,Mich. (WZZM)- The magic number is six in Michigan high school football.  And both Zeeland schools came up just short of that magic number in 2009.

The Zeeland East Chix and the Zeeland West Dux were both 5-4 a year ago.  Both were a single win away from locking up automatic playoff berths.

For Zeeland East, it was especially painful.  It was the Chix' second straight five-win season after winning a mere nine games the previous six years combined.  The 2009 season also featured a stunning upset of defending state champion Holland Christian.  Senior linebacker Keegan Denuyl tells WZZM this will be the year the Chix play on into the postseason.  They open the season against Forest Hills Eastern.

Labor Day Truck Parade

From http://holland.org/

This Labor Day, Monday, September 6, join us downtown for the Sixth Annual Labor Day Truck Parade and Ice Cream Social, a celebration of the hard work and dedication of the men and women who make West Michigan such a great place to work.

The parade kicks off on Zeeland’s Main Street at 9:00am and should roll onto Holland’s 8th Street by 9:15. Following the parade, join us at the Civic Center for free hot dogs, ice cream, giveaways and an up-close look at the trucks that carry locally made products all across the country. The celebration ends by noon.
For more information on this event, including a video that captures the sights, sounds and spirit of this event, go to http://www.westmichiganworks.org/.