2 teen brothers drown in Lake Michigan, 2 friends rescued

Hani Barghouthi
The Detroit News

Two teenage brothers drowned in Lake Michigan on Sunday while two friends were rescued by bystanders, police said. 

Baroda-Lake Township Police were dispatched to Warren Dunes State Park at 6:18 p.m. in response to a 911 call about a drowning, Lt. Wesley Koza said Monday. 

The Qasem brothers

The four teens, aged 15-17, were visiting the beach from South Bend, Indiana, area, Koza said. They called for help from the water, attracting beachgoers.

Police located the two missing brothers in the water about 35 minutes later, Koza said. They were unresponsive. 

"We started life-saving measures and they were transported to Lakeland Hospital in St. Joseph," before being pronounced dead at the hospital between 9:30 and 10 p.m., he said. 

The beach wasn't busy Sunday, Koza said, but there were bystanders, including those who rescued the two friends. 

Three of the boys "went deep out into the water," a GoFundMe set up for the brothers said Monday. More than $39,000 had been raised by Monday evening.

"As the tide rose higher, the three boys were pulled underwater, but one was found and saved," it said. "The other two boys were found later, but it was too late as they had already drowned." The names of the boys who drowned were listed as Ahmed and Saleem.

The notice said their mother had lost her husband two years ago, and that she has two other young children. The brothers were students at Saint Joseph's High School in South Bend, according to the diocese statement.

The Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend issued a statement Monday, including comments from the boys' high school principal, WNDU 16 News Now reported:

“The communities of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend and Saint Joseph High School in South Bend are mourning the tragic loss of two students in a drowning incident in Lake Michigan on Sunday, May 15 ..."

"Saint Joseph High School Principal John Kennedy ensured that support and counseling were available to students and staff at the school today, and that support will continue to be available in the future. An all-school Mass was held this morning and a Divine Mercy Chaplet was held this afternoon.

" ‘One of our core values is Build Family,’ said Principal Kennedy. ‘This means standing beside one another through the sorrows as well as the triumphs. We will walk through this grief together and call upon our faith to guide and strengthen us at this time. We ask for your prayers for the family, our students, faculty, and staff.’"

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades has asked for prayers from the community as well.

"‘I extend my deepest condolences and those of our diocese to the family, friends, and classmates of these students and to the whole community of Saint Joseph High School. May the Lord grant you comfort and strength in your grief at the death of these beloved young people! We pray that the Lord will grant them eternal joy and peace in His kingdom.’ "

The WNDU report listed the boys' names as Ahmed and Saleem Qasem.

The Baroda-Lake Township Police Department receives a few drowning alerts a year, but it's rarely "this early in the year" due to colder water temperatures. 

At least six people had drowned in Lake Michigan in 2022 before Sunday, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project in Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana. Some 12 drownings have been reported across the Great Lakes this year. 

The organization reports that more than 1,000 people have drowned in the region since 2010, with 98 confirmed in 2021 and 108 the year before.