Keisha Garnett, 30, was walking with friends on the south side of the Chicago River early Tuesday morning when she fell in near Lower Wacker Drive. Her friends waved down a driver, who called for help. Chicago Fire Department dive crews pulled the woman out of the water around 4:15 a.m. She was pronounced dead at 5:20 a.m.
"They were walking down there by the water. I don't know who exactly fell in or jumped in," driver Hailey Barham said. "I was driving just down the street. The girl was hysterical. So, we called police for her right away, and they came right away, and they pulled her out."
Barham said the friend told her that she and Garnett had gone out for the night and were on their way back to the Omni Hotel.
Barham, who is visiting from Indianapolis, said she was driving when she saw a "hysterical" woman on Michigan Avenue near the Wacker Drive intersection, begging a cab driver to call police.
"The cab driver didn't call police. He just drove off," she said, later identifying the woman on the street as a friend of the person in the water. "I'm the one that called 911."
Fire officials said Garnett was in the water for about 30 minutes. Dr. Rahul Khare, who works at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, did not treat the woman, but said that within five minutes of being in water as cold as the Chicago River, the body starts to shut down.
"As your temperature goes down, disorientation occurs you get very confused. It gets very hard for the people who are in the water to get out because they start becoming dizzy and then all the body organs kind of start to shut down," Dr. Rahul Khare, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, said.
The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.