Chicago boy, 7, drowns in Lake Michigan near Portage, IN, had 'bright future,' mother says

Child found near Ogden Dunes

Eric Horng Image
Saturday, June 17, 2023
Chicago boy, 7, drowns in Lake Michigan near Portage
There was a child drowning accident Thursday. A Chicago boy, 7, drowned in Lake Michigan near Portage, Indiana and Riverwalk Beach.

PORTAGE, Ind. (WLS) -- A 7-year-old boy from Chicago drowned in Lake Michigan in Northwest Indiana while a beach hazard warning was in effect Thursday.

Investigators said the child, who family identified as Onyx Torres, was playing in waist-deep water at about 4:50 p.m. near the Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk. When he entered a deeper area, a current pulled him from shore.

A family member tried to save him, but the current was too strong.

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Torres was found near Ogden Dunes about 20 minutes later. He was taken to Northwest Health-Portage hospital, where he died.

An autopsy completed Friday morning showed his cause of death was accidental drowning.

His mother, who was not at the lakefront Thursday, is devastated, and has a lot of unanswered questions.

She said her son just finished first grade at Smyser Elementary School in Portage Park, was incredibly smart, loved cars and building things and was the type of kid who brought flowers to his teachers at school.

"He'd hold the door open for me. When, if I'd open my own car door he'd be like, 'Mommy, I gotta be a gentleman. Remember, I've got to practice chivalry,'" said mother Natacha Cruz.

Both parents said their son had the brightest of futures ahead of him.

"I never imagined he was going to, you know, we'd have to bury him, you know. I expected him to grow up to become a man, and..." said father Xavier Cruz.

"We had plans," Natacha Cruz said. "He had seven years, seven years. It wasn't enough. I know my son would have been really successful. He even told me, 'Mommy, I'm going to go to college. I'm going to be an engineer.'"

Onyx loved cars and, even at his young age, was a whiz at building things. Now his loved ones are spreading a critical message.

"Check the weather. Put a life jacket on even if your kid knows how to swim," Natacha said. "Hold your babies tight. Keep a close eye on them."

A GoFundMe for the child's funeral expenses had raised over $11,000 as of Friday night.