Teen presumed drowned after second search day

August 3, 2008 9:17:49 PM PDT
A 13-year-old boy is missing and presumed drowned in Lake Michigan.Raphael Palomar was swimming near Porter Beach at the Indiana dunes and was pulled under by a strong rip current.

The teen's 10-year-old brother also struggled with the waves and rip current, but other swimmers were able to get him out of the water to safety.

This latest incident is, once again, raising the issue of the dangers of Lake Michigan's rip currents.

Authorities say they simply do not have the resources to man every mile of every beach. They also added that they wished they could, if it would help prevent tragedies similar to the one that appears to have claimed the life of the 13-year-old boy.

Relatives of Rafael Palomar were holding vigil Sunday near the shore where it is feared he drowned, as rescuers continued the search for the teen.

"At first, w e all were thinking that he was coming out and he was ok. After a while, they didn't see he was coming out, and his mom was saying already, 'My baby died, my baby died,'" said Guadelupe Sanchez, the victim's aunt.

Searchers scoured the floor of Lake Michigan looking for the boy who was reported missing at approximately 1:30 p.m. Saturday, when rough waters hampered efforts to find him.

"Visibility is zero. We could only keep our men [divers] down 30 minutes before they were exhausted," rescue diver Bob Cauffman.

Rafael Palomar's family admits he went into the strong rip currents even though they were told not to go in.

"He was trying to push his little brother to shore so he wouldn't drown either, and he as asking for help," Sanchez said.

Other beachgoers managed to rescue the teen's 10-year-old brother.

"As long as there's not an actual lifeguard or police presence of some sort keeping people out of the water, they just go to an area where they're not manned," said Indiana D.N.R. Officer Gene Davis.

A similar tragedy happened in July when a 14-year-old disappeared at Kimmel Beach.

However, some experts say it is possible to survive in a rip current if the swimmer does not panic.

"If you swim sideways, you will swim out of the current and come back to shore. But trying to swim against the current, you will just get exhausted to the point where you can't swim anymore and you're done," outdoor expert Ryan Koepke said.

Authorities say that they will resume their operations Monday, but because Rafael Palomar has not been seen alive for at least 24 hours, their operation has been shifted from one of rescue to one of recovery.


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