Search for boy in river enters 3rd day

Photo courtesy ABC7's Jason Knowles

May 18, 2010 9:48:03 AM PDT
A Chicago family continued its agonizing wait as divers returned to the Chicago River Tuesday searching for a second grader who fell in the water Sunday.

They are searching for the body of an 8-year-old boy who fell in the river while playing at Eugene Field Park on the Northwest Side.

Cashmere Castillo's family has been watching the search efforts since Sunday night. Some family members have been combing the riverbanks themselves.

There had been some reports that authorities may have found a certain section of the river where the boy's body may have been. They used sonar equipment to pinpoint where they think his body may be lying, but an officer said around 11:30 a.m. Tuesday that the search may still be far from over.

"He likes to play on that park with everybody, you know, because he got along with every kid at the park just like a normal kid, liked to play around," said father Willy Castillo.

The desperate search for Cashmere started Sunday evening, ended at nightfall and resumed again all day Monday. It continued again Tuesday morning. The strong current and murky waters have made it difficult for divers, firefighters and the police marine unit.

"We're estimating the current to be about ten miles per hour, so swimming against that is tough for divers and their ability to stay under for any length of time," said Peter Piazza, Chicago Police Marine and Helicopter Unit.

Cashmere was playing tag with friends when he hopped a fence and fell into the Chicago River. Search crews said they plan to concentrate Tuesday on one area, based on what they have seen on sonar.

"It took quite a bit of time to clear some of the debris that was under the surface. We haven't completely ruled this area out, so we will be out here again," said John Escalante, Chicago Police Dept., Area 5.

"Our main aim is at least we find his body so he can rest in peace," said older brother Christian Castillo, 13.

Cashmere's brother said that they found the boy's sweater Monday morning.

Police are now calling the search a recovery mission.

Nine hours into the search Monday, sonar equipment detected something promising not far from where the 8-year-old fell into the river. But the water was so murky, the camera was unable to pick up anything.

Specialized sonar equipment from the Wauconda Fire Department was brought in as well as a boat and other equipment from Lake and McHenry counties.

Meantime, the Castillo family did not leave the scene all day.

Mom Merrell Castillo spent the day near the bank of the river where Cashmere was last seen.

"I hope my son is still alive," she said.

While the police and fire departments have been in recovery mode since Sunday night, the Castillo family is not giving up hope.

"I was just walking, saw a sweater, picked it up and gave it to my mom, and she was like, 'Yeah, this is his.' But we are not sure if he was wearing his sweater or if he wasn't," said Christian Castillo.

"I keep searching for the whole night, running back and forth, working along both sides of the river, hoping that he is somewhere in there on those mud, sliding down, slipping or whatever," said Willy Castillo.

Good Samaritan, father jumped in after boy

Cashmere and his friends were playing along the North Branch of the river Sunday when he fell into the fast-moving current. His older brother was also nearby.

"We saw them by the river acting suspicious. I said, 'Why are they over there?' So, I just kept playing basketball, and then, I heard people just watching him saying, 'Hey, your brother is drowning.' And then I jumped. I dropped the ball, ran after him. I jumped. I had a split second to either jump in with him or just stay back," said Christian Castillo.

Christian Castillo said he yelled for help. A local resident came to the rescue.

"He was just walking with his family, and then I just told them, 'Can you please help me?' He jumped in. He took off his jacket and came swimming after him," said Christian Castillo.

The Castillo boys' father also tried jumping into the river.

"He jumped in for two seconds, but then I saw him coming back because the water was cold," said Christian Castillo.

Approximately two hours into the search, dive teams were pulled because the current was too strong and the visibility was zero.


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