Picnic Rocks Drowning Follow-Up

Now for an update on a story we brought you on the air last night.

The drowning victim at Picnic Rocks in Marquette was a Wisconsin state official who didn’t want to be remembered for having that job.

At least here in the U.P., he was better known for his giving spirit.

And the Coast Guard hopes visitors to the area can learn from what happened to him.

62-year-old attorney Rod Nilsestuen led the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection from 2003 until his death last night.

But he came to the U.P. every summer since 1997 to work with Marquette County Habitat for Humanity.

Habitat executive director Mike Shimon remembers Nilsestuen as a humble, kind man who’s worked on 95% of the homes the group has built to date.

Shimon says he spoke with Nilsestuen’s wife Carol both last night and this morning, and she told him Rod loved being in the U.P. and considered it a second home.

Shimon also says although Nilsestuen wasn’t an expert swimmer, he was an experienced swimmer who would go for a dip in Lake Superior at every opportunity.

U.S. Coast Guard Station Marquette hopes people can learn from this that ripcurrents, like the one that sent Rod Nilsestuen under last night, can show up even in calm water like what Picnic Rocks had at the time of the drowning.

BM2 Christopher Connolly says the ripcurrents are a byproduct of the sometimes-fierce winds the lake gets, and swimmers have to stay alert for them.

Picnic Rocks has plenty of warning signs telling prospective swimmers that the area is both unprotected by lifeguards and potentially dangerous.

But they’re not the only markers.

There are also memorials to previous drowning victims, such as one near the Presque Isle breakwall.

Rod Nilsestuen is the 5th person to drown in Marquette since 2005.

One common thread between them — all of the victims were from outside the Marquette area.

BM2 Connolly says area residents are for the most part very cognizant of the potential risks of the water, but visitors often aren’t.

And they’re the ones he hopes the word of this accident can reach to keep the drownings from becoming an annual occurrence.