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Multiple people rescued from Lake Michigan in less than a day; teen and woman dead

At least 2 dead in multiple incidents on Lake Michigan in past 4 days
At least 2 dead in multiple incidents on Lake Michigan in past 4 days 02:15

CHICAGO (CBS) — Three separate incidents on Lake Michigan in less than a day led to multiple people needing to be pulled from the water, and left two people dead.

On Monday morning, two teenagers went out into Lake Michigan on a kayak, which flipped over, according to Chicago police.

A 16-year-old girl was pulled to shore by a witness on Montrose Beach. A 16-year-old boy was pulled out of the lake by Chicago Fire Department divers.

The Fire Department posted a photo on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, of rescue teams attempting CPR on one of the individuals. The department said a CFD helicopter was used to spot the victims and dropped divers to rescue them.

On Monday morning, two teenagers went out into Lake Michigan on a raft, which flipped over, according to Chicago police. A 16-year-old girl was pulled to shore by a witness. A 16-year-old boy was pulled out of the lake by Chicago Fire Department divers. Chicago Fire Department

The boy was taken to Weiss Memorial Hospital, where he died.

No other injuries were reported. Area detectives were investigating the incident.

"If you fall off a boat, tip over, windy conditions, waves, if it waves the wrong way, if you're wearing a pfd [personal flotation device], that could save your life," said Chicago Fire Lt. William Davis. "It could keep you at the surface so we can be able to retrieve you quickly."

Then, on Monday afternoon, two more people were rescued after nearly drowning in Montrose Harbor. The Chicago Fire Department said a man and a woman were in a "no swim" area in the lake south of the beach.

The woman became unresponsive and was given CPR by a passerby. She was resuscitated and taken to Weis Hospital in fair condition. The man was also pulled from the water and taken to the hospital.

The witness who tried to help the woman spoke to CBS 2.

"It was like me and the other guy over there, we were giving CPR to the guy first, it was the other guy and then to the girl, I was the one who gave CPR," said Natalie Pastor. 

Witnesses said the swimmers appeared to be in their 20s. It took five or six people to pull the man out of the water and about three to pull out the woman.

Both swimmers were expected to be released.

Four people pulled from Lake Michigan in Chicago within hours, 1 teen dead 02:14

Sailboat capsizes near Winnetka

A woman swam two miles to get help, after her 12-foot sailboat capsized in Lake Michigan near north suburban Winnetka on Sunday. Another woman who had been missing was later pulled from the water.

The U.S. Coast Guard spent hours searching for the second woman overnight, and pulled her from the water early Monday. Her condition was not immediately available.

The sailboat launched out of Evanston on Sunday, and capsized around dusk near Winnetka. Officials said, around 2 a.m., one woman onboard the sailboat made it to shore after swimming two miles to Tower Road Beach. She told officials a second woman who went missing after the boat flipped was also wearing a life vest. 

That second woman, 53-year-old Cristen Bolan, was brought to shore at Montrose Harbor in Chicago around 7 a.m. Monday, after being found about a mile offshore north of Winnetka. She was later pronounced dead, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner's office. Multiple boats, drones, and helicopters were involved in the search.

It's unclear what caused the boat to capsize.

This all came after an incident on Saturday afternoon when a man in his late 50s fell off a boat and into the water in the Playpen near Navy Pier. He never returned to the surface and search crews could not find him before transitioning their operations to recovery mode.

Multiple people rescued from water in Lake Michigan in less than a day, 1 teen dead 01:34

High number of Lake Michigan drownings

Of all the great lakes, Lake Michigan is by far the most dangerous for swimmers. According to the Great Lakes Current Incident Database, about 450 people drowned between 2002-2020, about double the number of all the other Great Lakes combined. 

That database only accounts for drownings in which currents were a factor and doesn't include accidents like the one Saturday in the Playpen.

Currents are more dangerous on the eastern side of the lake, with incidents most common around Warren Dunes State Park and Holland State Park.

According to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, 22 people drowned in the Great Lakes in 2024, including seven on Lake Michigan. However, those numbers were last updated on June 9. Last year, there were 85 drownings on the Great Lakes, including 41 on Lake Michigan.

Since the project began in 2010, 2018 was the deadliest year for drownings, with 117 on all Great Lakes and 43 on Lake Michigan.

Dave Benjamin, co-founder and executive director of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, said the beginning of "drowning season" coincides with the beginning of summer.

"This is a time of year where the warm weather drives everyone to the beach, and water safety is not generally common sense—not just in the Great Lakes region, but nationwide," Benjamin said. "People have the assumption that they may know how to swim, or some swimming or ability, but they often overestimate their abilities—and Lake Michigan has a lot of extra hazards compared to your normal pool."

Expert warns of dangers of swimming in Lake Michigan 02:19

Benjamin noted that panic is the first stage of drowning—which many do not realize.

"So they're in the water, they're fine, they're having a good time—but say if they just inhaled a tiny bit of water, their throat closes up, they go to instant panic," he said. "When you're in instant panic, you're fighting to get out of the water as soon as possible. You go into this vertical posture. You start climbing the ladder or pawing with your hands to the side, and get submerged very quickly."

Benjamin advised that much as people can't put on seatbelts in the middle of a car crash, one also should not expect to put on a lifejacket in the middle of an emergency in the water.

Chicago fire officials said people should wear water flotation gear when they go on a personal flotation device or any boat in the water, even if they are close to the shore.

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