Updated 11/08/13 – 11:07 a.m.
(STMW) — A 64-year-old man died late Thursday night, after driving his car off Lake Shore Drive, and into Lake Michigan.
Steven Halperin’s 1998 Ford station wagon drove into the water at Balbo Drive around 10:30 p.m.
Halperin’s wife said he was on his way to work in the Edgewater neighborhood, after leaving their South Loop apartment. Witnesses saw him driving east on Balbo Drive at Lake Shore Drive, but instead of making a left turn, he kept going, onto the sidewalk, down a pedestrian path, and into the lake.
Witnesses said the car seemed to wait for cross-traffic, then drove through the intersection of Balbo and Lake Shore Drive, and plunged into Lake Michigan. Divers spotted the car about 50 feet off shore, submerged in about 15 feet of water.
Police said Halperin was alive when divers pulled him from the water, but he later died at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
Fire Department Deputy District Chief Ron Dorneker said the search took less than a minute. A diver broke the car’s window to get Halperin out.
“It was a quick search; less than 60 seconds that diver was in the water, located the victim, and had him back up at the surface,” he said.
No one else was in the vehicle.
It was unclear if Halperin suffered some sort of medical condition, or if there might have been a vehicle malfunction, or if some other factor caused the car to plunge into the water. His wife said Halperin had epilepsy, but hadn’t suffered a seizure for several years.
“We won’t know until the autopsy,” Mary Halperin said. “I think he did drown, probably, but I don’t know. I wasn’t there.”
She doesn’t believe her husband would have driven into the lake on purpose.
“There was no depression. He was just fine. So it had to be a health issue,” she said. “I’m suspecting that he had a seizure, but that doesn’t mean he did.”
Halperin and his wife had just celebrated their 24th wedding anniversary on Oct. 26. He was a retired salesman, but for the past few years had worked as a doorman at a high-rise near Sheridan Road and Foster Avenue, working the overnight shift.
“He was always a nice guy. He used to greet me every time I came in. He used to hold the door for me,” said Harsha Gado, who lives in the building where Halperin worked. “Once I had my car here, and it was towed, and I did not know what to do, because I’m new to the city. And then I went to him, and we talked for like 15 minutes, and he explained to me how to take care of it, and all of the details as to who to call.”
Mary Halperin said her husband loved sailing and snow skiing; and spent most of his summers cruising on Lake Michigan. She said he also taught sailing to people with disabilities.