Winnetka fire crews pause search for man missing in Lake Michigan

Beach hazard statement issued for high waves

Michelle Gallardo Image
Tuesday, August 15, 2023
Coast Guard, north suburban emergency crews search for man in lake
The Coast Guard and other north suburban emergency crews are search for a man in Lake Michigan.

WINNETKA, Ill. (WLS) -- Winnetka fire officials have been searching for a man who went underwater and did not surface early Tuesday morning.

Fire officials said they were at 299 Sheridan Road, near Elder Lane Beach, shortly after 2 a.m., searching for the man in his 20s in Lake Michigan.

SEE ALSO: Bartlett man drowns in Lake Michigan after going missing off Gary, Indiana shoreline: officials

Winnetka Fire Chief John Ripka said the search was considered a recovery mission as of about 6 a.m.

Three men had jumped off a pier in the area, and only two resurfaced from the water. The friends tried to throw the third man a life ring before calling 911, officials said.

A large emergency presence could be seen in the area early Tuesday. The search was called off on Tuesday afternoon, but will resume at 7 a.m. on Wednesday, the Winnetka fire chief said.

Chicago officials issued a beach hazard statement until 10 p.m. Tuesday for high waves and dangerous currents. Six- to 9-foot waves are expected.

"There's a beach and a pier, and they were reportedly, they were jumping off the pier, about 4 or 5 feet deep. Again the waves and current, there are beach alerts out. Unfortunately, maybe the undertow pulled them under. He didn't resurface," Ripka said.

Fire officials said due to the choppy conditions in the water, their search has been mainly limited to the shore.

"Winnetka, Wilmette, Glencoe, Northfield fire departments immediately started search from the shore," Ripka said. "We were unable to launch a boat due to the wave conditions, which were about 8 feet and have since gotten worse, maybe 8 to 10 now. So, we did a shore search. We called the Coast Guard. They initially couldn't launch a helicopter 'cause of wind, but eventually they were able to do so, about an hour later. So they are now conducting a search with a Coast Guard boat and helicopter with negative results so far."

Ripka said he hopes at some point Tuesday water conditions will improve enough to be able to get divers deployed.

The man's family was on the scene later Tuesday morning, but declined to comment.

Access to Elder Park Beach was closed Tuesday morning.

This is the 24th drowning to take place in Lake Michigan so far this year.