July 11, 2002 at 8:09 PM EST - Updated July 10 at 7:56 PM
HURON, Ohio (AP) - The apparent drowning of four men trying to rescue a swimmer in rough Lake Erie waters Wednesday came just days after the city had begun implementing new safety measures at Nickel Plate Beach.
Due to concerns about the strong undercurrent at the beach, city officials convened a task force to develop new safety measures, according to Gary Packan, director of the city's Parks and Recreation Department.
As an interim measure, city employees on Saturday began handing out fliers to beach visitors warning about water hazards.
"Please swim with extreme caution," the flier said. "If the waves look dangerous ... they probably are."
There were signs posted at the beach Wednesday warning that swimming was prohibited due to severe water conditions. There are no lifeguards at the beach.
According to city officials, four men disappeared as they were trying to rescue Amy Renee Anderson Wednesday afternoon. Two firefighters responding to a distress call dove in to the water but were overcome by the current. Other rescuers in a boat managed to pull Anderson and the two firefighters from the water, but the four men never surfaced.
The missing were identified Thursday as Jarred Smith, 18, of nearby Sandusky; Kyle Kroetz, 29, and Matthew Smith, 21, both of Findlay; and Steve Cupec, 27. Fire officials gave a Karns City, Pa., address for Cupec, but family there say he has lived in Ohio for several years.
Packan said the fliers were the first step in developing new safety policies at the beach.
The policy review was started after reports last week of several people struggling against the rough waters. On Friday, a 14-year-old girl was rescued by a private boater, the Sandusky Register reported.
At least two people have drowned at the beach in the past few years, officials said.
"We have a meeting scheduled with the fire chief and city manager to begin putting together this new policy," Packan said Thursday. "We are contacting other municipalities and cities around the country for suggestions" on beach safety, he said.
Mayor Edward Asher said the city may now consider having lifeguards at the beach.
"We've had the beach for years and we've never had lifeguards, and it's posted," Asher said. But "these things cause you to re-examine the situation."
City Council Member Terry Graham said it has always been considered economically infeasible for the town of 8,000 people to hire full-time lifeguards.
Carol Dreffer, another council member, said it is hard to imagine how a lifeguard would have helped the four men who disappeared Wednesday, given how much the firefighters struggled to save Anderson.
Asher pointed out that Anderson and her friends had been warned to stay out of the water, and that all security procedures have limits.
"You have rules and when people don't follow rules, sometimes tragedy hits," he said.
(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)