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Fire Dept. Diver Dies During Rescue Attempt; Search To Resume For Missing Boater

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Rescue teams were preparing to resume the search for a missing boater on Tuesday, after a Fire Department diver died while trying to find the missing man Monday evening.

Juan Bucio, 46, was part of a dive team searching the Chicago River near Canalport Riverwalk Park in the Bridgeport neighborhood around 8:30 p.m. when he lost his own life.

Around 7:50 p.m., the Fire Department received a call about a 28-year-old man who fell off a boat on the river near 26th and Ashland. Visibility in the water was near zero, so finding the man was going to be difficult and dangerous.

The first dive team had been searching for the missing man for a while when the order was given to relieve them, and switch out with a second team. That's when something went wrong, and Bucio went missing.

Fire Commissioner Jose Santiago said Bucio and his partner were swimming out for the search when Bucio vanished in an instant.

"He [Bucio's partner] was face to face with him, was looking at him, turned around, went back to talk to him, and he was gone," Santiago said.

Juan Bucio
Chicago Fire Department diver Juan Bucio died after disappearing in the Chicago River while trying to find a missing boater on May 28, 2018. (Credit: Linkedin)

It took other divers about 20 minutes to locate Bucio and pull him out of the water. Paramedics performed CPR on him all the way to the emergency room at Stroger Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 10:02 p.m.

Two other Fire Department divers were injured during the search, but have since been released from the hospital.

So far, there has been no sign of the man who went missing in the river, 28-year-old Alberto Lopez.

At least one of the men on the boat with him on Monday was back at the scene Tuesday morning to check for any sign of his missing friend, a father of three.

Friends said Lopez is a fun-loving family man who came to Chicago from Mexico to provide for his family and pursue his American dream.

Investigators with the Chicago Fire Department returned to the scene Tuesday morning, taking pictures and documenting the area near 26th and Ashland, where Bucio went under while searching for Lopez.

Bucio joined the department 15 years ago, and had been with the dive team since 2007. Santiago said he leaves behind two sons, ages 9 and 7. He also has nine siblings, including a brother with the Chicago Fire Department and a sister with the Chicago Police Department.

"Please keep his family in your prayers," Santiago said.

Chicago firefighters and police officers made their way to the hospital Monday night to show support to his family.

Emergency responders lined the streets from Stroger Hospital to the Cook County Medical Examiner's office and two fire trucks extended their ladders over the intersection of Harrison and Leavitt to fly the American flag as an ambulance brought Bucio's body to the morgue.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel released a statement about Bucio's death early Tuesday:

"Our hearts are heavy tonight as Chicago lost a hero in Firefighter Juan Bucio. When the call came for help, Juan Bucio was that special type of person who answered. He was dedicated to Chicago and committed to keeping us all safe. He will be missed, but his service and his selflessness will be remembered. Amy and I extend our prayers to our fallen firefighter, his family and his colleagues that make up the best Fire Department in the world."

Police Supt. Eddie Johnson also offered his condolences in a statement:

"A piece of Chicago was lost tonight - a hero who dedicated and ultimately gave his life attempting to save others. On behalf of the entire Police Department, our deepest sympathies for our brothers & sisters at the Chicago Fire Department and the family of fallen CFD diver."

Bucio was the 13th Chicago firefighter to die in the line of duty since 2010, and the first since Dec. 15, 2015, when Dan Capuano fell through an unmarked elevator shaft while battling a warehouse blaze in the South Chicago neighborhood.

Meantime, Chicago Police Department and Fire Department divers planned to return to the Chicago River on Tuesday to resume the search for Lopez.

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