By Associated Press - Saturday, March 15, 2014

GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (AP) - A western Michigan mother who became a high-profile advocate for marine safety after her son drowned in a rip current a decade ago is getting a national honor.

Grand Haven resident Vicki Cech will receive a Community Lifesaver of the Year award from the National Drowning Prevention Alliance during its upcoming annual conference, The Grand Rapids Press reported ( ) Saturday.

She’s led numerous safety efforts and pushed for a state law enacted in 2006 that toughened penalties for stealing or vandalizing publicly owned marine-safety equipment. Under the law, if a stolen life ring is a contributing factor in a drowning, the thief could be charged with a felony. If convicted, that person could be sentenced to a maximum of 15 years in prison and fined up to $10,000.

Cech’s son, Andy Fox, drowned in September 2003 while swimming near a pier at Grand Haven State Park. No life rings were kept on the pier’s catwalk or neighboring stretch of beach because of liability concerns, and there wasn’t enough time to retrieve one from a concession building.

Two nights came and went before search divers were able to recover the body of the 17-year-old drowning victim about 150 yards from shore.

“She embodies everything the (alliance) stands for,” said Bob Pratt, who nominated Cech for the award and serves as executive director of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. “She has just stepped up across the board at all levels and made things happen.”

Her efforts have included lining Grand Haven’s south pier with life rings and 911 alarm system with security cameras. She and other advocates also celebrated recently when they learned that officials to the south in Berrien County voted to install nine life rings on a pier by May 1.

“I do want to make my community safer, but I want to make other communities safer as well,” she said. “I’m just a mom trying to save lives.”


Information from: The Grand Rapids,

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