WINNETKA, Ill. (STMW) — Life jackets may have saved the lives of two 14-year-old girls when they were thrown from a jet ski and spent more than an hour floating in Lake Michigan Monday near north suburban Winnetka.

The girls, both 14, were on a jet ski about four miles northwest of Lloyd Park Beach in Winnetka when they took a sharp turn and were thrown overboard, U.S. Coast Guard Command Duty Officer Charles Wolfson said.

The jet ski’s kill switch worked properly and cut the engine as soon as they were thrown off, but the jet ski drifted away from them, leaving them stranded in Lake Michigan, Wolfson said.

Family members called for help, and the Coast Guard launched a helicopter from Waukegan and a rescue boat from Wilmette Harbor. Local emergency crews in communities along the lake from Highland Park to Evanston also sent rescuers after the girls, Wolfson said.

The rescue helicopter’s first sweep found only the jet ski, but an additional search found the girls floating and conscious about 5:30 p.m., still wearing their life jackets. They later told rescuers they spent more than an hour in the water before help arrived, Wolfson said.

“The one thing we’re happy about is that they were wearing life jackets. It saved their lives,” Wolfson said. “It’s still cold water right now, and always wear your life jacket.”

Both girls were wearing only swimsuits and were suffering from hypothermia, since the water temperature was only about 60 degrees, he said. Paramedics treated them in “stable” condition when they arrived onshore, though it wasn’t immediately clear if they were taken to an area hospital for further medical attention.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2012. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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