Body of Michael Janko pulled from Lake Michigan near Hammond, Indiana

July 19, 2013 2:48:41 PM PDT
Crews have pulled the body of Michael Janko, an alderman in south suburban Blue Island, from Lake Michigan.

Janko vanished in the water near Hammond Thursday. On Friday, purple and black bunting draped the outside of Blue Island's city hall for Michael Janko, a man many remember for his love of family and his commitment to the people of Blue Island.

Officials say Janko died while boating with friends off Whihala Beach near Whiting, Indiana. His wife and two daughters were vacationing in Colorado at the time.

"A terrible, tragic accident has happened not only to the Janko family but the family of the City of Blue Island, to the employees here in the city of Blue Island," said Blue Island Mayor Domingo Vargas.

Authorities say the 50-year old member of the Blue Island City Council was boating with two friends north of the beach when he jumped into the water.

Witnesses tell the U.S. Coast Guard that is when Janko appeared to have trouble in the water.

Another swimmer grabbed him and tried to pull him to safety, but authorities say Janko slipped under the water and did not resurface.

After an eight-hour search, divers recovered his body late Thursday night about 50 yards from where he went missing. He was not wearing a life jacket.

"His passion for the city is not deniable," said Alderman Dexter Johnson. "We know that he had a big heart for the city...a big guy in stature and also in heart."

Michael Janko was appointed as alderman of Blue Island's 5th Ward in 2007. The ward sits on the northwest side of the southwestern suburb. He was elected to the seat the next year. He also served as mayor pro tem. Ward residents say Janko than just their alderman; he was also their friend.

"He was looking out for us, basically, and has always been," said 5th Ward resident Naomi Gonzalez.

The death of the suburban politician has left many residents of Blue Island in shock, especially his neighbors.

"I had just seen him that morning, so it was... I couldn't believe it," said Ludivina Cervantes, a neighbor of Janko.

Janko graduated from Eisenhower High School and Moraine Valley Community College and was also active with community and church organizations. Janko also loved Corvettes and is credited with helping to create the town's popular Driving Dixie event.

Friday morning, friends and colleagues are remembering him for his love of family and his commitment to the people of Blue Island.

"Mike: Thank you. We will miss you. We love you," said Vargas.

As people in Blue Island grieved for Janko, investigators continued on Friday to look into the incident and were awaiting autopsy results.

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