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Mourners remember medic lost in Lake Michigan

11:53 PM, Jul 1, 2013   |    comments
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John English

GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (WZZM) - With little hope he will be found alive, friends, co-workers and relatives are mourning the loss of John English.

The 47-year-old paramedic has been missing since Sunday afternoon, when he jumped into Lake Michigan from a boat about a mile offshore of Grand Haven.

On Monday evening, his colleagues, friends and family members gathered at the water's edge to mourn and remember him.

"This is the last place he was and even though he is not here his spirit might be," explained friend Kim Helm.

"We just want to be here for his friends and his family," added her husband, Bob Helm.

On Sunday afternoon, John English and friends were returning to Grand Haven by boat after a lunch in Muskegon. They stopped about a mile from shore to swim in the 65 degree water.

"Mr. English dove in head first," says Lt. Steve Kempker of the Ottawa County Sheriff's Dept. "He did come to the surface, and at that time it was apparent he was in distress."

Some of the ten people still aboard the boat noticed English was having trouble and tried to toss him a life ring. But with the engine off, the boat was drifting in the choppy water.

The distance between the vessel and the swimmer was growing.

"To our knowledge, nobody jumped in," says Lt. Kempker. "They were trying to throw him a life ring. We are not sure if there was a medical condition or some other issue. At that time Mr. English went under the surface."

English was a medic and instructor at Life EMS Ambulance in Grand Rapids.

"I met my wife through him," says Bob Helm. "He was best man at our wedding and godfather to our child. He let you know he was there with you."

"He was an incredible man," says Kim Helm. "He always made you laugh. It's just a terrible loss."

Though his body has not been found, the family has made funeral arrangements.

Visitation will begin at 10 a.m. Wednesday at St. Alphonsus Church, with a funeral mass at noon.

A celebration of his life will happen afterward at the Fifth Street Hall in Grand Rapids.

A private service will be held for the family when the body of John English is found.

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