Lake search for missing teen produces nothing

July 14, 2008 5:52:56 PM PDT
A day of fun turned to tragedy for a suburban family. Dangerous rip currents pulled a 14-year-old boy under the water while out for a swim in Lake Michigan. He never surfaced. Devante Jackson was swimming with friends near the Indiana Dunes Sunday. Since late Sunday night, crews had been searching the area by boat and helicopter, and divers had been underwater looking for the teen. The search effort is concentrated around Kemil Beach.

Search efforts were suspended for the night Monday around 7 p.m.

The red flag was up for swimmers Sunday at Indiana Dunes State Park. So Devante Jackson and a group of friends moved further east to Kemil Beach, where there are no lifeguards. The lake was surely inviting, but the wind and wave action spoke of danger.

The lake was tranquil Monday compared to Sunday, when wind outs of the north pushed four-foot waves on the beach, prime conditions for rip currents. Fourteen-year-old Devante Jackson was swimming with a dozen friends. He was furthest out, about 150 feet in chest deep water.

"Once you are in over your head and you have four-foot waves pounding on top of you, it becomes deadly," said Bruce Rowe, Indiana Dunes park ranger.

Devante did not resurface. His friends were unharmed.

On Monday, divers were in the water trying to find the body. Indiana's Department of Natural Resources was using a boat equipped with side sonar.

Kemil Beach does not have lifeguards, but it does have signs warning about the dangers of rip currents, wind and wave action pounding on the sandy lake bottom. Your footing can be lost and the dynamics of a rip current can pull you under.

"People get out there and play for a while in the water, and they start to fatigue and get tired, and they don't realize they are getting tired because they are having fun," said Gene Davis, Indiana Dept. Natural Resources.

On average, conservation officers say, two to three people drown every year along the Indiana Dunes shoreline, largely because of rip currents on days when the water looks inviting and the waves look like fun.

Devante's aunt solemnly sat Monday as teams tried to locate her nephew's body.

"You've got to understand that Lake Michigan, while a beautiful resource and a lot of fun, can be deadly if you don't know what you're doing in it," said Rowe.

So far the body has not been found. There are limits on the amount of time that the dive team can stay in the water. They will continue to search until those limits are met, quite possibly later, too.


Load Comments