MICHIGAN CITY | A northern Indiana man's body was recovered Sunday after he was swept off the Lighthouse Pier at Michigan City's Washington Park a day earlier by a large wave, officials said.
Earl Helmuth, 24, of Napanee, his fiancee and two other Amish couples were taking photos at the end of the Lighthouse Pier about 6:30 p.m. Saturday when a large wave came over the rocks and "knocked them off their feet," said Sgt. Shawn Brown, an Indiana Department of Natural Resources conservation officer.
The six friends were standing on the middle tier of rocks north of the lighthouse as the waves were crashing in, Brown said. There are pilings but no railings at the end of the pier, which is "pretty open," he said.
"It was a nice day. The waves were neat, and they were just taking pictures," Brown said.
After the group was swept off the pier, three were able to get out on their own.
U.S. Coast Guard officers, who happened to be patrolling the creek that goes from Lake Michigan into Michigan City, rescued two others — including a pregnant woman — who were clinging to the concrete wall of the lighthouse.
The Coast Guard and conservation officers launched a search by water and air for Helmuth, who could not swim, Brown said. Ten-foot waves and treacherous conditions late Saturday forced divers to suspend their underwater search until Sunday, officials said.
Helmuth's body was recovered about 8 a.m. Sunday, shortly after conservation officers divers resumed their search. He was found in 12 feet of water, about 20 feet from where he was last seen, officials said.
Helmuth and his fiance were planning to marry in October, Brown said. Officials initially said Helmuth lived in Shipshewana. Brown said he was planning to move there, but legal documents still listed a Napanee address.