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1 Dead, 2 Still Missing After Boat Capsizes on Lake Michigan

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Photo from WGN-TV

CHICAGO, Ill. –  (Chicago Tribune, June 1, 2014) – Two people were found — one of whom later died in a Chicago hospital — and two others are still missing after their boat capsized sometime Saturday afternoon or evening about six miles from the Chicago shoreline, according to authorities.

The first man rescued was in the water since at least 7 p.m. Saturday; he was pulled out of the water around 6:15 a.m. Sunday. The first 911 call came in about 6:15 a.m. Sunday, police said.

A second person, a woman, was rescued later, according to U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Second Class Levi Read. Both victims were transported in very critical condition to Mercy Hospital and Medical Center, Read said.

The woman died at the hospital at 10:04 a.m., according to police and the Cook County medical examiner’s office. She has not yet been identified.

According to Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford, the woman, in her 20s, was in cardiac arrest when she was taken from the water about two hours after the man was found.

Langford said that the searchers are looking for two people, because the man who was rescued told authorities that two people who had been on the boat had been dropped off before the boat capsized. Langford did not know who those people were or where they had been dropped off.

Langford said that a piece of debris had been found which might have come from the boat. He said that the fire department has one large boat, one small boat and a helicopter involved in the search.

According to Chicago Police Department News Affairs Officer Jose Estrada, five Chicago police boats were helping in the search.

The Coast Guard said it has rescue crews from Chicago, Calumet Harbor and Wilmette Harbor and one helicopter involved in the search. Other air assets will be called in as needed.

Langford said a fixed-wing aircraft may be added to the search team.

Someone on a fishing boat that departed the shore early Sunday morning saw something in the water, maneuvered toward it and found the first person, Chicago Fire Department Chief Joe Roccasalva said.

According to Joel Reiser, the charter boat captain who pulled the first man out of the water, he had been told there were three men and three women on board the boat, a charter that had gone from Burnham Harbor to New Buffalo, Mich., and was on its way back.

Reiser said that the man who was pulled from the water claimed he had been in the water for 12 hours. The man told Reiser that flotation devices had been distributed to the boaters before they left the vessel.

“He saw what he thought was a kayak,” Roccsalva said. “It turned out to be an adult male in a life jacket.”

The man in the water was hypothermic and some details he provided first responders varied, fire officials said.

“(Hypothermia) restricts blood vessels to keep the heart and brain going … you’re going to be in shock basically,” said Roccasalva, who said later that he believed the man who was rescued was the captain of the capsized boat. said.

“He told probably two or three different stories, but then again, he was confused,” Roccsavala said of the man rescued.

According to the National Weather Service, temperatures in that part of the lake are in the low to mid 60s.

Between two and four people are still missing and the boat capsized, possibly after catching fire, authorities said. All were wearing flotation devices, according to authorities.

Roccasalva said he did not know the name of the boat or if it was chartered. He said he believes the vessel was a 30-foot motorboat.

The search is being conducted six miles from the 31st Street Beach on the South Side.

“We’re working a grid pattern out there,” Roccasalva said. “It’s just sit and wait now.

“They have been finding debris out there, boat cushions and bench seats, stuff like that. But they haven’t located any people yet.”

Peter Nickeas contributed.

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1 Comment

  • Ex Boater

    People always underestimate lake Michigan.
    Its not really a lake as much an inland sea and should be respected as such.
    We grew up calling the lake "Mr Lake "