2 Dead, 1 Missing in Deadly 24 Hours on Lake Michigan With Multiple Drownings

Chicago police and fire department personnel conducted multiple water rescues on Lake Michigan in a span of less than 24 hours, with at least two people dead and one still missing.

On Wednesday, shortly after 5 a.m., a 43-year-old man was pulled from Diversey Harbor after falling into the water and failing to resurface. He was taken to Illinois Masonic Hospital in critical condition and later died, according to the Chicago Police Department. The Cook County medical examiner’s office has identified him as Luis Alberto Davila Vera, of the University Village neighborhood in Chicago.

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Also on Wednesday, just before 7 p.m., the police department’s marine unit rescued one person who fell off a boat near the Jardine Water Purification Plant, in an area of the lake commonly known as the “Playpen.” That person was unresponsive when transported to shore and was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in critical condition. A search continued for a second person who also fell into the water, police said.

Early Thursday, at approximately 12:30 a.m., a man was pulled from Montrose Harbor by the Chicago Fire Department. He was pronounced dead at Weiss Hospital and has since been identified as Francisco Gonzalez, 38, of Chicago’s West Ridge neighborhood. A death investigation is underway.

During a joint press conference held Thursday by the Chicago fire and police departments, officials said Gonzalez is not the man missing since Wednesday. 

In Indiana, a body pulled from the lake Tuesday has been confirmed as Dexter Sain of Chicago, missing since late July, according to the Chicago Tribune. Sain had gone boating with a friend, setting out from the East Chicago Marina, and the two never returned to shore. Sain’s companion, Curtis Herron, is still missing.  

The recent cluster of incidents, including a boating accident in the Playpen that cost a woman her legs, is out of the ordinary, said Jason Lach, the fire department's deputy chief overseeing the marine unit. Both Lach and his counterpart with the police department, Lt. Tony Mendez, said calls for service on the lake have been down a bit in 2022, but now is the time of year when activity peaks.

“There are too many boats, too many swimmers and people not respecting the water the way they should,” Mendez said.

Lach urged swimmers to check the weather and to understand the lake’s rip currents before hitting the water, and added, “Never swim alone.”

Mendez advised: “If you’re going to swim, if you’re going to boat, don’t drink (alcohol).” Police will board boats to make sure the pilot isn’t drunk, he noted.

Providing a grim reminder of what’s at stake, Mendez said, “One of our responsibilities is to recover dead bodies. We don’t want that to be you or your loved ones.”

This story has been updated.

Contact Patty Wetli: @pattywetli | (773) 509-5623 |  [email protected]

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