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Sailors Rescued From Lake Michigan — For Second Time In A Year

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A Chicago Police diver helps two boaters get to a police boat after their own sail boat overturned off Montrose Harbor. (Credit: CBS)

A Chicago Police diver helps two boaters get to a police boat after their own sail boat overturned off Montrose Harbor. (Credit: CBS)

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Updated 04/18/12 – 7:19 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — A dramatic rescue unfolded on Wednesday when two sailors were plucked from Lake Michigan after spending several minutes clinging for their lives on the side of their overturned sailboat. Officials said the men apparently had been drinking.

At least one of the men was involved in a similar incident about a year ago.

After first being spotted by Kris Habermehl in Chopper 2 around 2:20 p.m., the police rescue boat arrived on the scene around 2:40 p.m and divers rescued the men.

As CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov reports, the two men on the 14-foot sailboat, named Peter Pan, were hanging onto the side of the overturned boat as they waited for rescue. There were being pounded by choppy, frigid waters east of Montrose Harbor.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Steve Miller Reports

At least one of those two boaters got into trouble with the same boat on Lake Michigan almost a year ago. Peter Kovats, 62, was on a boat that capsized on Lake Michigan last May. He and two other men were rescued by Kovats’ wife after the boat was caught in a storm.

Mary Kovats had called her husband as the storm hit, worried that Peter and his friends were still sailing. Peter told her they were fine and just about in from the lake.

But they did not come ashore, and Mary Kovats set out with friends from the Corinthian Yacht Club at Montrose Harbor to find them. They found he boat overturned, and the three men in the water.

Peter Kovats and the other two men were hospitalized after the earlier incident, but were not seriously hurt.

Officials said they believe Kovats and his friend were drinking before the latest incident. But they’re expected to be okay.

On Wednesday, after a police diver helped Kovats and his friend out of the water and into a police boat, they were taken to shore at Montrose Harbor, where two ambulances were waiting to take them to local hospitals. Rescuers had tossed them a rope to try and help pull them into the rescue boat, but the men were apparently too cold and tired to pull themselves in.

Kovats told WBBM Newsradio’s Steve Miller, “I’m fine. I’m not really newsworthy.”

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Both Kovats and his friend were left bloody and battered.

“They weren’t doing well. They were … the gentlemen were cold. You could tell they were fatigued,” Johnsen said.

One of the sailors was being treated for hypothermia at Weiss Memorial Hospital.

The other was taken to Saint Joseph Hospital.

That was obvious from Chopper 2, which spotted the men’s boat after it flipped on its side and helped direct rescue boats to the men as they clung to the vessel.

Before the police located their boat, the men were seen waving to Habermehl in Chopper 2 HD, who discovered the two men. Haberhmehl, who was shooting video for another story, alerted rescue officials who arrived on shore around 2:30 p.m.

“It’s a dangerous lake to be on a small boat on a day like today with the wind gusts,” said Police Marine Unit Officer David Johnsen.

Although rescue crews found life jackets near the boat after the men were rescued, the two sailors were not wearing life jackets when the boat tipped over, making the struggle to stay alive even more precarious in the water, which was only about 50 degrees at the time.

“I’m no expert on hypothermia, but these guys were definitely … you could tell by the condition of their hands and their skin, they were cold, and wet, and they were happy to see us,” Johnsen said.

“I’m no expert on hypothermia, but these guys were definitely … you could tell by the condition of their hands and their skin, they were cold, and wet, and they were happy to see us,” Johnsen said.

The U.S. Coast Guard was communicating with Habermehl to get an exact location of the boat, which was too far off shore for people on land to swim to it.

It was located about 400 yards off the eastern edge of Montrose Harbor when it tipped over.

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