Woman pulled from Lake Michigan dies; search called off for 2 missing boaters

Rescue efforts were suspended Sunday evening for two people who had gone missing after a boat capsized over the weekend on Lake Michigan.

It wasn’t until the sun rose on Sunday morning that anyone knew a boat possibly 10 miles off the 31st Street Harbor Shoreline had sunk.

Its four passengers, WGN is told, were clinging to life preservers to stay afloat.

A fishing charter captain on his way out with a group was the first to report something had gone terribly wrong on Lake Michigan.

“We spotted something that was orange, and we thought it was kayak. We slowed the boat we seen somebody’s head in between 4 PFDs,” said Capt. Joel Reiser.

He circled the boat around to pull the man bobbing with four life jackets on to his boat.

“He wasn’t coherent at first. He really didn’t know who he was, but he wanted to get out of the water. Then slowly as he started warming up, he became more coherent,” Reiser said.

The captain says the man then told him he had been in the water for more than 10 hours after their 33-foot pleasure boat caught fire. He sent up flares but their radio was not working. He and five friends had gone from Burnham Harbor to New Buffalo, Mich. Two friends stayed there while the four-headed back and eventually abandoned ship.

“Time. We are fighting time. So we’re doing the best we can. We have a lot of assets in the area searching. We’re very aggressive with this search and trying to find these people,” said Deputy District Chief Ron Dorneker, Chicago Fire Department Marine and Dive Team.

They’ve got boats, helicopters and a C130 search plane from Canada equipped with radar and looking for the victims.

“It’s just a large search area and the people separated, and when they separated the search area expanded,” Dorneker said.

Rescue crews did find a woman in her twenties, who has been identified as Ashley Haws. They tried to revive her, but she was pronounced dead a short time later at Mercy Hospital. Despite the chilly Lake Michigan waters, rescue teams have not given up hope of finding the two others still missing alive.

“We don’t know. People could be floating on some debris, which could give them more time,” Dorneker said.

It’s not known at this time how long they will continue searching for the two believed missing.

 

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