Lake Michigan drowning, water rescues renew calls for life rings along Chicago beaches

CHICAGO (WLS) -- There's a push underway to add throwable life rings or preservers along Chicago's lakefront following multiple water rescues and a drowning in Lake Michigan over the weekend.

While the water was calm in Rogers Park Wednesday afternoon, it was a much different story Sunday when red and yellow flags warned of rough waters in the lake.

The waters claimed the life of 19-year-old Miguel Cisneros, whose body was recovered several hours after he jumped in the water. Water safety advocates said they believe he might have survived if witnesses had access to a life preserver.

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"They saw him struggling. They watched him die. They had nothing to throw him that floated that would have saved his life," said Dave Benjamin, with the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.

Benjamin is one of a number of lake safety advocates who have been lobbying the park district to put life preservers at Chicago beaches.

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Horacio Leon, 55, drowned in the lake in 2018, despite being a strong swimmer. Rescuers had no access to a life preserver.

"If there would have been a life preserver thrown to him, there's no doubt in my mind he would have grabbed it and we wouldn't be having this discussion. I would have my father," Jessica Leon said.

Park district representatives issued a statement saying "The Chicago Park District is currently exploring supplemental safety equipment for sanctioned swim locations."

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Halle Quezada has been working on this issue since 2018, after 13-year-old Darihanne Torres drown. She helped pull her friend out of the water, but was unable to help Torres.

"Drowning is an injury where mortality and morbidity is dependent on how quickly you get the person out of the water and start CPR," said Halle Quezada, Chicago Alliance for Waterfront Safety.

The danger signs posted at the entrance to the Rogers Park beach where Cisneros drowned suggests throwing a life ring or anything that floats to a swimmer having trouble in the water. The beach is not equipped with those items right now, but activists are hoping to change that soon.
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