'I don't know that he would have ever been found,' Chicago SWAT team says of dangerous water rescue in Lake Michigan

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The video captured on Chicago police pod cameras speaks for itself.

It was life or death for a 22-year-old Chicago man seen in the video struggling to keep his head above the icy waters of Lake Michigan. He fell in Saturday morning, just after 7 a.m.

The video shows a good Samaritan trying to flag down a car, while another person, who was off camera across the street, called police.

First responders arrived at the scene minutes later.

"It was tough footing out there but it was just kind of less thinking, more doing. There's a guy in the water, we got to get him out," said Chicago SWAT member Shane Coleman.

Coleman and his partner Pete Jonas described a dangerous situation and how they jumped into action.

"You could see his hands were at the surface of the water but his head and shoulders were completely submerged," Coleman said.

Jonas made a split-second decision and drove down to the lakefront path.

"If we had gone up to Lake Shore Drive, we would have been looking at the same vantage point that fire was, and they weren't able to see him," said Chicago SWAT member Peter Jonas.

Police said a good Samaritan called from the 25th floor of the hotel right across the street when they saw someone fall into the water.

But the decision for first responders and the SWAT team to rush to the lakefront path may have saved the struggling man's life because nobody else from Lakeshore Drive could actually see him in the water.

"The ice shelf was such a steep drop off that if somebody didn't see him initially, I don't know that he would have ever been found," Coleman said.

Coleman and Jonas got out of their vehicle, called for help and made a human chain to get the man out. First responders warmed the man and took him to the hospital in critical condition.

"I think that what they did was exceptional, heroic, without hesitation and without fear. I think they did a great job," said Chicago SWAT Lt. Tom Lamb.

Coleman and Jonas said they don't consider themselves heroes.

They were able to meet the man they rescued and his family a few hours later.

The 22-year-old native Chicagoan who fell into the water is now out of the hospital and recovering at home.
Copyright © 2020 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.