Authorities warn locals of dam dangers

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EATON RAPIDS, MI. (WILX) A local fire and rescue team is warning others about the dangers of dams after a boat capsized near Eaton Rapids earlier this week.

Hamlin Township Fire Rescue were able to save the boat and the two people that went overboard, but they say anyone near the Smithville Dam needs to use extra caution.

With rainfall this year above average, dams like the one at Smithville Park have to work twice as hard, causing violent currents below.

"The more rain you have, the more movement you're going to have in the river," said Eaton County Sheriff Tom Reich. "It has a tendency to pull objects in it, including people. It looks like we're going to get more rain. People just need to be cautious about where they're walking and not get too close to the river."

The dreary weather is not the only sign warning people to keep their distance.

"The Smithville Dam is very well posted on the dangers of the river, being that it's not only deep, but the water flow is a little quicker," said Reich.

That water flow almost took two lives on Tuesday, prompting a Facebook post from Hamlin Township Fire Rescue, urging locals to stay safe.

Officials tell News 10 that this isn't the first incident to happen at the Smithville Dam.

But they're also saying they hope it'll be the last.

"We're hoping to have a safe summer," said Reich. "Lakes and rivers are to have enjoyment...just be cautious."

Dams are designed in part to keep areas around them safe.

Sheriff Reich says locals need to respect that.

"They serve a purpose," he said. "People need to be careful and watch their children, if they go down there, because the river can sweep you right away really quickly."

Hamlin Township Fire Rescue Deputy Chief Francis D'Huyvetter tells News 10 that there's been at least one incident per year at the dam over the last five years, and one of them resulted in a death.

Most incidents at the dam are a result of people in tubes and boats drifting too close to the edge of the dam.