Emanuel: Heat-Related Illness Forced North Avenue Beach Shutdown

CHICAGO (CBS) — Was it fear of a violent flash mob, heat sickness, or just too many people?

The search for answers continues Tuesday morning about why North Avenue Beach was shut down on Memorial Day.

As CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports, Mayor Rahm Emanuel discussed the decision to close the beach. He said quite assuredly that the beach was closed Monday evening because of the tremendous number of paramedic calls received due to heat-related illnesses.

Emanuel said based on the reports he received Tuesday morning, and from what he heard, the situation was handled appropriately.

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“I think that they took the appropriate steps given what happened, and that’s that it was handled through an abundance of calls, which set up the right type of information,” Emanuel said. “The police, given the size of the crowd and given what the paramedics had to do, shut the beach down so the paramedics could do what they needed to do, which is apply the type of health care needs, and necessary to deal with the people that were showing the effects of both heat exhaustion, or other types of illnesses.”

The announcement about a safety-related closure came over the public-address system shortly after 6 p.m. firefighting crew sprayed crowds with a mist of water from a 2 1/2-inch hose as beach-goers made their way from the lakefront.

“They just started throwing us all off the beach — literally,” beachgoer Jennifer Epley said after police sent everyone home. “The cops were walking up and down, saying, ‘You need to get out of the water.’”

Several ambulances had been called to the beach about 5:30 p.m. after several people began feeling sick on the beach, Fire Media Affairs Director Larry Langford said. “They started falling down and were lightheaded,” he said.

In all, four people were rushed to area hospitals. One was even listed in critical condition.

The 18-year-old man was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital after being found unresponsive, Langford said.

There had been some speculation about what really happened.

Police sources have a different explanation. They said Tuesday that the beach was shut down in response to the large crowds of people showing up all at once, and police not having enough manpower to control the chaos.

Beachgoers at North Avenue have also faced the threat of violence from flash mobs and wilding on busy days in recent months.

Last month at North Avenue Beach, sources say a group of about 100 teens surrounded two people on bikes. Both were knocked off their bikes and thrown into Lake Michigan.

Mayor Emanuel said he did not know anything about the reported crowd control problem.

“One report is… was not what was shared with me, but what the steps are – and I think it’s important to remember this – you have a series of phone calls coming in from a single beach about heat, whether it’s heat exhaustion, or et cetera. It’s the first real hot day we had,” Emanuel said.

Emanuel said repeatedly that police made the appropriate professional judgment call to close the beach. He also said there was no specific protocol for how to handle such heat situations, and he would have to bring up the issue with police and the Office of Emergency Management and Communications.

  • g-man

    Sure we are really going to fall for that. In fact the weather report was that North avenue beach was the ONLY hotspot in the whole city. It was 20 degrees cooler everywhere else.

  • Legato

    How deep is the water, if someone gets tossed in the lake?

  • Legato

    I am surprised no one has released a video of the mobs. With all the cellphones owners out at that beach.

  • Jim

    Closing the beach for heat is a good reason if your sitting in your back yard.
    If you are at Fullerton Ave. Beach North Ave. Beach, or Oak Street beach you know the real story: large groups of gangs knocking people off their bikes and trying to take over. Geal Real City Government, take the streets back before Chicago beomes Detroit. You lose the lakefront, you lose Chcago. I propose the immediate hiring of 3000 more Chicago Police Officers. They are cheaper than losing the City.

    • Legato

      You are right Jim. If this city allow thugs to take over at any beach. More thugs will spread around, malls, sporting events,…etc. One more thing, how about the Taste of Chicago? It does not look good.
      Let’s use The Taste of Chicago as a test case. That event must not, have a thugathon. Or any thug activity like what happened at North Beach. If it does, it will show how Emanuel will deal with this prioblem.

  • tunafish charlie

    I like how RAHM is addressing the north ave beach…but hasn’t said a word about this weekend CRIME SPREE..its OBVIOUS the beach has more importance….here we go again…how do they get ELECTED…

    • Legato

      This reminds me of the mayor in the movie Jaws. He refused to tell the truth about the man eating shark. The sherriff wanted the beach closed on Memorial Day for that safety reason. That mayor did not close the beach. As a result of that, the shark had a meal.

  • west town dude

    just imagine if the Flash Mobs were white, that would be front page news…..but the mobs are not white, so with all due political correctness, the true story will not be told…after all, we should not sterotype

  • Mr. Justice

    Maybe if we had Conceal Carry here in Illinois, we would not have these flash mobs roaming around the lake front. Now, I do admit, it would be a bit difficult to conceal a handgun in a swimsuit, but I think you get the idea. Crime will continue to increase until these puking liberals get some sense into their heads. You can put more cops at the lake front, but these mobs will just go elsewhere. That is why it is vital that Conceal Carry be passed in the State of Illinois. AND PLEASE do not even tell me having CCW will increase violence when all the statistics show that crime actually decreases. Illinois is the only state that does not allow Conceal Carry or Open Carry, and look where it has taken us.

  • Jim

    Hopefully our new Mayor will have the backbone to address these issues. I think he will. The old mayor who had no backbone, was sacard of his own shadow, never wanted to deal with these issues. The police department needs a full court press to get crime under control not only on the lakefront abut across the city. I

  • MyAimIsTrue

    Welcome to the jungle!

  • Captain Hook

    Did they close down all the beaches, or was this the only one that was particularly hot that day?

  • Larry

    Rahm spewing rubbish. Why even attempt to say this when everyone knows it’s all a pack of lies? And what’s going to happen at Taste? Does the City already have down the pat “it’s the weather” line?

  • Anthropologist

    Feral Chicago folks. Who would have thought? Is this linked to Detroit?

  • Say What

    Was it fear of “A” a violent flash mob. “B” heat sickness. or “C”just too many people ? If you picked “A” you are correct.

  • say it aint so

    Who in their right mind will bring their kids (and their money) to downtown anymore. Libs forget that their constituents only take not give.

  • http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2011/06/01/supt-mccarthy-gang-activity-didnt-close-beach/ Supt. McCarthy: Gang Activity Didn’t Close Beach « CBS Chicago

    […] Mayor Emanuel said Tuesday that the closer was about public health and public safety. He said police had to shut down the beach “so the paramedics could do what they needed to do,” given the number of calls for heat exhaustion. […]

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