Friends, classmates gather to remember teen presumed drowned near Diversey Harbor, search continues for his body

Thursday, August 6, 2020
Friends, classmates gather to remember teen presumed drowned near Diversey Harbor, search continues for his body
A recovery mission resumed Tuesday in the search for a 15-year-old boy missing in Lake Michigan who disappeared while swimming at Diversey Harbor.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- On Wednesday, there was a prayer service for the high school student who is presumed to have drowned near Diversey Harbor.

Dozens of classmates, family and friends showed up for the vigil at DePaul College Prep.

The teenager was a student there. He was 15 years old.

Authorities said he went into the lake near Diversey Harbor at about 5 p.m. Monday with three other friends and never came out. Instead, he was swept away from shore by the incredibly high waves.

The teenager was out swimming with "a group of young gentlemen," according to a Chicago Fire Department official. "He got swept offshore, and was not able to get back into shore."

A teenage boy was swimming in Lake Michigan with friends when he got swept off shore.

The search resumed Tuesday morning at 9 a.m. as a Chicago police boat and a helicopter got back onto the lake along with Chicago Fire Department rescue teams.

Social media posts shared among teenagers who live in the area urged them to come to Lake Michigan Monday and some of them jumped in the water.

"Everyone's brother, everyone's son. Everyone's friend," read a sign posted near the lake.

The remembrance was posted this afternoon on a tree near Lincoln Park's Signal of Peace Monument, where a teenage boy drowned yesterday after jumping into the water with a group of friends.

The search for his body continues. Dangerous water conditions hampered what is now a recovery effort.

Water safety advocates called this a preventable death.

"How can we have a known hazard in a known public park," said Halle Quesada with the Chicago Alliance for Water Safety. "A known hazard, and have no layer of protection for our children when they find themselves there?"

As Chicago's beaches have remained closed, the area connecting the Diversey Harbor to Lake Michigan has become a known hangout for teenagers on lazy summer afternoons- whether it's jumping into the water off the Belmont rocks or even jumping off the Diversey footpath bridge into the water.

On Tuesday, Park District Crews got to work installing a fence.

One worker acknowledged it was to prevent teenagers from continuing to jump in.

The lakefront's social distancing ambassadors do patrol the area, but despite most of them being trained lifeguards, their presence here is sporadic, rather than a permanent one.

Even under the best conditions, the lake is still very dangerous.

"They are just having these needs, these social needs that kids and teens have and the lakefront is one of the few places available to them to fill those needs," Quesada said. "With the beaches closed, the rocks are what's left."

"We created the conditions that is making it more dangerous for our kids. We absolutely have a responsibility to protect them," she said,

Water conditions remained dangerous Tuesday with waves up to 8 feet high and strong rip currents.

Both the Chicago Fire and Police Marine Units urged people to stay out of the water and emphasized that if it's dangerous for their divers, it is dangerous for everyone.

A Lakeshore Flood advisory remains in effect through the afternoon and a Beach Hazard statement is in effect through Wednesday morning.

Meanwhile, there have been 50 confirmed fatal drownings so far this year, according to The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.

David Benjamin, the executive director of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, says they have been writing the mayor for years for more safety measures every 400 feet along the lake path, but nothing has been done. He believes this was preventable.

"If you're gonna provide the access to the water, there should be rescue equipment, updated signage as well as lifeguard protection, especially when you're gonna close the beaches and push people to these dangerous spots. They're essentially getting herded to these dangerous spots."