How a tubing trip on Lake Huron ended in grief, criminal charges

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

A late-summer day on Lake Huron turned tragic for a Cheboygan family when a 5-year-old drowned while tubing with friends. A family friend faces charges.

Kyzer Grant, 5.

Family and friends gathered on Aug. 9 near Cheboygan State Park, and Kyzer Grant went out with a couple of people in a boat. Just after 7 p.m., Kyzer fell into Lake Huron in Duncan Bay while being pulled behind the boat on a tube. He was not wearing a life jacket.

He was found about five minutes after he fell in 10 feet of water by a retired Wayne County judge and was taken to shore, the sheriff's office said. Medics administered CPR and other aid. The boy was airlifted to C.S. Mott Children's Hospital in Ann Arbor, where he died the next morning.

Kyzer's mother had not yet arrived at the beach and was not on the boat at the time of the incident, Cheboygan County Undersheriff Tim Cook told The Detroit News.

"The parents did not know the child did not have a life jacket on," Cook said. "The operator and owner of the boat had the child on the boat and let him on the tube without a life jacket on."

Willem Vantielen

Authorities say Willem Vantielen, 77, a friend of the child's family, operated the boat. He was given a $10,000 personal bond on two charges: involuntary manslaughter, a 15-year felony, and second-degree child abuse, a 10-year felony. 

His preliminary examination is set for Sept. 28. The prosecutor's office declined to comment.

Authorities continue to investigate Kyzer's death.

Parents Samantha Yorch and Anthony Grant II, both of Cheboygan, have been in a custody battle for two years, Grant said. He said Kyzer was with Yorch that weekend. That Sunday, Kyzer went to the beach with the family of Yorch's boyfriend.

"They had too many people, so they ended up dividing up between cars and Kyzer was put in one of the first cars to leave with his mother’s boyfriend," Grant said. "Within minutes of them starting the boat, Kyzer fell off; meanwhile, a 12-year-old on the boat had a life jacket."

"This is our responsibility... I can’t get over it," said Grant, 27. 

Yorch did not immediately return a phone call Tuesday.

Grant was not at the beach that day, he said.

Cheboygan County Sheriff Dale Clarmont said, in a statement, that "Michigan law is clear that a child that age must wear a life jacket anytime they are on this type of boat or being towed on a tube on Michigan waters."

Frankie Buindo, a friend of the boy's father, set up a GoFundMe, which has raised $4,000 for the family following the devastating incident.

"This was a horrible accident," Buindo wrote. "Kyzer passed with his mom and dad at his bedside. It’s a horrible, horrible time for Anthony and all of the friends and family of Kyzer ... We are raising money so he can grieve without the added stress of worrying about finances."

In his obituary the family wrote, Kyzer was a goofy, sarcastic, joyful little boy who knew what he wanted in life.

"He was very mischievous. Kyzer wanted to be a police officer because he didn't like when people did bad things," his family wrote. "Wherever Levi was, Kyzer was right there with him, whether it was being sneaky or getting into mischief they were always together."

Since the incident, Grant had a daughter born Aug. 24, and the family is moving. He also has another son, Levi.

"There's been a divide in the family for years and we'll never understand why (Kyzer) wasn't with his mother," Grant said. "But we're moving on. Levi has his own room and is very excited to be a big brother."

Twitter: @SarahRahal_