Wife lauded for 'miracle' Lake Michigan rescue

May 13, 2011 (CHICAGO)

The men were sailing on Lake Michigan late Wednesday night when fierce winds flipped their boat several times. Friday, Kovats talked publicly for the first time about the incident.

Wednesday evening, three friends, all experienced sailors and members of the Chicago Corinthian Yacht Club, were out for a sail on a 19-foot sailboat on Lake Michigan when a violent microburst storm hit Chicago. When they did not make it back to Montrose Harbor on time one of their wives went out searching for her husband and his friends.

"We were hit by a gust of over 75 mph and just slapped down in no time at all," said rescued sailor Peter Kovats, Mary's husband.

Friday, Mary Kovats, her husband and his two sailing companions were at Advocate Illinois Masonic hospital following the miraculous rescue. When Kovats did not hear from her husband, she took a boat with two volunteers to assist. She did not know that her mission would be a life-saving one that night.

In the dark of the night they spotted the capsized boat and could see that the three men were not in it. She saw her husband floating in cold waters, semi-conscious, about 200 yards away and heard the cries of the other men in the lake.

"I spotted something, and it was Peter," Mary said. "We pulled him out and we could hear the others."

"Due to the exertions I just blacked out, and we were found by the actions of my wife and two experienced sailing friends," said Peter.

Mary Kovats and the other two rescuers pulled all three men out of the water. They had been floating for almost 45 minutes.

The rescuers removed the men's clothing and took them to Illinois Masonic Medical Center to be treated for hypothermia and shock.

"It is a miracle that they survived and are alive," said Dr. Patricia Lee. "It is an unbelievable story of good luck and his wife. They found them. It is a remarkable story. It is a miracle."

"It was tremendous what they did," said rescued sailor Daniel Tenuta. "Mary took action and saved our lives."

Sixty-two-year-old Peter had gone sailing with his friends to celebrate his birthday. Having survived the storm, he has a great deal to be thankful for, including the love and determination of his wife .

Peter says Mary's devotion is still sinking in.

"I always knew," Peter said, "but this is more than proof."

Mary raved about the help of her friends in rescuing the other two sailors.

"Without the two of them, we wouldn't have been able to pull these two on board," said Mary.

The three men, all experienced sailors, cannot wait to go back out again on Lake Michigan. They all realize how fortunate they are to be alive; searching for someone in the night in choppy waters is an impossible task.

All three men were wearing life jackets, and that helped to save their lives, along with the heroic efforts of Mary Kovats and her two friends.

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