Grand Rapids man drowns while attempting to save son

LEROY — A Grand Rapids man drowned on Sunday after jumping into Rose Lake to save his son from drowning.

Matthew Vandermolen, 24, of Grand Rapids, was on a boat with his 3-year-old son and another adult male, whose name has not been released by the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office, when the child fell overboard.

“We think they hit a wave and he bounced out,” said Undersheriff Justin Halladay. “The father, who ultimately was the victim, jumped out to save the 3-year-old and eventually drowned.”

Vandermolen was able to get his son into the boat before going underwater for the last time. Witnesses called 9-1-1 when he did not resurface and nearby boat owners began to search the area.

Osceola County Sheriff’s Office Marine patrol unit then patrolled the area with members of the Osceola County dive team, but were also unable to locate the victim before the search was suspended at 10:30 p.m. Sunday night. The search was resumed at 8 a.m. on Monday, when the team utilized side-scanning sonar equipment from the Roscommon County Sheriff’s Office. The body was recovered at noon on Monday.

The body was sent for medical examination and report shall be finalized pending results.

“None of them were wearing life jackets at the time,” Halladay said. “If the boy would have worn one, his father wouldn’t have been worried about him drowning, and if the father would have worn one, he wouldn’t have drown. That’s what the life jackets are there — they can save your life.”

Members of the Northern Michigan Mutual Aid Dive Team from Manistee, Roscommon, and Wexford counties assisted deputies with the search, as did Osceola County Emergency Medical Services, LeRoy-Rose Lake Fire Rescue, and Tustin Fire Rescue.

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Posted by Whitney Gronski-Buffa

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