Sunday, August 3, 2008

Child watches two boys go under, one saved

Child watches two boys go under, one saved

PORTER -- Officials on helicopters and jet skis will continue to search Lake Michigan today for a 13-year-old boy feared drowned Saturday.

Rough waters and strong waves hampered efforts to find the boy, who was reported missing around 1:30 p.m. off of Porter Beach just west of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore beach.

Department of Natural Resources officer Shawn Brown said officials would decline to release the boy's name. A recovery operation would continue this morning, he said.

Tina Reid of Porter said she and her friends were getting ready to leave what she called a beautiful day at Porter Beach around 1:30 p.m. when they saw a woman running down the beach, screaming for help.

The woman's young son had seen two other boys in trouble in the water and had actually tried to save them himself, Reid said, but the son couldn't help them and then got his mother for help.

Reid and her friends, Tim and Chris McNally of Porter, swam into the water and were able to save the 10-year-old boy where the water was about 6 feet deep.

"I just heard him keep saying, 'My brother, he's dead,' " Reid said. "I just wish we could have been there 30 seconds earlier."

They couldn't see his brother, though, and Reid ran back to the beach to call 911. By the time she had come back, lifeguards had begun to gather volunteers to search for the boy.

Doris Healy of Porter said she, too, heard the woman scream for help. Her husband, Dennis, went to help and joined the chain of volunteers that tried looking in the shallow waters for the boy.

Officials with the National Lakeshore beach had actually closed the waters to swimming around 11 a.m., Doris Healy said, but people just moved west to the Porter Beach.

"I kept thinking all day this is a horrible day to have kids down here," she said, referring to the rough waves. "I've never seen it this bad."

Dennis Healy said the volunteers eventually had to pull back because of the waves.

Family members watched as officials continued to search the waters for hours. Crews from the U.S. Coast Guard, Ogden Dunes Fire Department, Burns Harbor Fire Department, Porter Fire Department, Portage, Lakes of the Four Season Fire Department and Porter County Sheriff's Police joined the DNR in the search.

People continued to play on the beach and wade into the waters and rescue officials had to save another swimmer around 4:20 p.m. who was in distress in the water.

The woman was sitting and awake when taken away in an ambulance.

Officials closed Porter Beach after that, Portage Assistant Fire Chief Joseph Calhoun said, but people still tried to stay in the water, despite the waves.

"The water was definitely dangerous today," he said.

The search was suspened about 8:30 p.m. because of high waves, DNR officer Brown said.

The most recent Lake Michigan drowning in the region occurred July 13 when Davante Jackson, 14, of Chicago Heights, Ill., disappeared at Kemil Beach in Porter County. His body was found three days later.