Ameera Muhammad was a Chicago model and former flight attendant who went missing Tuesday night while swimming with family and friends off a boat in Lake Michigan
Chicago police said the boat hit a break wall just before 10 p.m. Tuesday as a storm blew through the area. Chicago Fire Deputy District Chief for Dive Operations Jason Lach said several people from the boat were already swimming in the water when the boat hit the break wall.
"They were swimming about 40 to 50 feet off the break walls, and that's when the winds kicked up and pushed that vessel into the wall," Lach said.
Muhammad went under and never surfaced, officials said. Divers looked for the missing woman inside the break wall between the Shedd Aquarium and Monroe Harbor.
Her sister said she was with Muhammad when she went under and thought she might have been caught in a rip current.
"It came out of nowhere. It was drips and drizzles and then, it just came in like a Chicago storm -- lightning everywhere," witness Matt Fusello said.
Divers searched the water for an hour before they were pulled out, and a surface search continued. They were out on the lake until about 2:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Police boats used sonar equipment to locate her right near that break wall at the very south end of Monroe Harbor near the Shedd Aquarium around 8:30 a.m.
Lach said there were 12 to 16 people on the boat at the time of the incident. The swimmers were not wearing safety vests, Lach said.
Emergency officials said the incident could have been avoided if life preservers had been worn.
The fire department said that as of this year the all-time record for the height of Lake Michigan has been broken.
Officials are reminding people that the beaches are closed, and they know people will venture out onto the water in boats to beat the heat, but say even the best swimmers have a bad day.
This is the fourth time this season a boat has hit a break wall, not knowing it was there, officials said.