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GARY, Ind. (STMW) – Rescue personnel are searching for a New Lenox man who may have drowned Wednesday afternoon near Wells Street Beach in Gary.
A 20-year-old New Lenox, Ill., man was swimming with three friends around noon in five-foot-tall waves, said Indiana Department of Natural Resources conservation officer Gene Davis. The beaches along the southern shore of Lake Michigan were under rip current advisories on Tuesday and Wednesday, and Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore beaches were closed.
A wave crashed over the four friends about 200 feet from shore, but they never saw the man come back up to the surface. Emergency crews responded, but their efforts were limited by the water conditions.
Davis said that the dive team was unable to go in the water, so boats from the Gary Fire Department and U.S. Coast Guard patroled the waters while the Lake County Sheriff’s Department helicopter scanned the lake and beach from overhead. Officers from the Gary Police Department and National Lakeshore police patroled the beach.
Davis said that authorities are withholding the man’s name, pending notification of his family.
If the body isn’t found by dusk, emergency responders will return to the beach on Thursday morning, where they plan to send divers in the water and use SONAR to find the body. Davis said that the wind is supposed to change directions and calm down a bit to make the search easier.
Wednesday’s rough waters made swimming difficult for even experienced swimmers since rip currents can pull swimmers under the swirling waters and push them further out into the lake. Davis said that a man had to saved from a Michigan City beach earlier on Wednesday.
Around 2:30 p.m., a 30-foot Sea Ray boat from Chicago washed up on the beach about a mile west of where the search began. Three friends had taken the boat out of Calumet Harbor last night, and they jumped off the boat to go swimming, only for the boat to drift away from them. The men reported the boat missing.
(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2010. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)