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Man dies after jumping into lake in Winnetka to help child who fell into water while tubing

Man drowns saving child on Lake Michigan in Winnetka
Man drowns saving child on Lake Michigan in Winnetka 02:21

CHICAGO (CBS) -- People packed the beaches along Lake Michigan this 4th of July trying to beat the heat, but a day of boating turned tragic in the northern suburbs when a man drowned after he jumped in the water to save a child who was struggling.

The July heat sent so many people to the beaches to stay cool, but the water has proven to be dangerous and even deadly this holiday.

In north suburban Winnetka, a day of boating turned tragic.

Winnetka Fire Chief John Ripka said, around 1:20 p.m., police and firefighters responded to the lakefront, where a man who was boating on the lakefront had jumped into the water to help a group of children who were tubing on Lake Michigan.

"Everybody's sort of gathering on the beach, and someone dialed 911, because the kids were yelling that something was down," said witness Amy McCarter.

Some children were getting pulled on an inner tube by a boat at Centennial Beach, when the children flipped, according to McCarter.

"One of the children, I think, it looked as if was having trouble, and the other kids were saying 'He's having trouble swimming,'" she said.

Although the kids were wearing life jackets, authorities and witnesses said 43-year-old Luke Laidley jumped from the boat to try to save the child who was struggling.

"The gentleman who was running the boat jumped in the water," McCarter said.

Yet the waters of Lake Michigan proved to be too much for Laidley, who went under himself. When he was pulled out, friends started CPR before rushing him to shore. Paramedics took over and rushed him to NorthShore Evanston Hospital, where he died.

"Oftentimes would-be rescuers also become a drowning victim as well, because they make a knee-jerk reaction to get in the water to try to make the rescue," said Dave Benjamin, co-founder and executive director of the non-profit Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project dedicated to reducing drownings.

Benjamin warned the lake can catch even a seasoned swimmer off guard.

"If the lifeguards are the first responders in the water, if there is a water emergency, you have seconds to minutes for a successful rescue," he said.

Such was the case across the lake in Michigan City, Indiana, where lifeguards linked arms Tuesday afternoon, searching the water after a 4-year-old girl went missing.

"It looks like the lifeguards assembled very quickly. It's always best to check the water first. They went out and did a very thorough line search with all the lifeguards tethered together to make sure that they water was clear," Benjamin said.

That child was found wandering the beach and was reunited with her family.

Meantime, Laidley is being hailed as a hero for jumping into the lake to save the struggling child in Winnetka. It's unclear if he's related to the children who were tubing off the back of the boat.

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