Updated 06/17/14 – 11:11 a.m.
WHITING, Ind. (CBS) — A Hammond teenager died Monday night, after jumping into Lake Michigan with friends at a beach in northwest Indiana.
CBS 2’s Marissa Bailey reports 18-year-old Jose Alcazar and two friends dove into the lake off a fishing pier near Whihala Beach around 8 p.m.
Alcazar almost immediately began to struggle in the water, according to Indiana Department of Natural Resources conservation officers.
His brother, Geo Alcazar Joya, said Jose didn’t know how to swim.
“He thought he did. He thought swimming took two minutes,” he said.
Officials said Alcazar’s friends tried to help him, and a third person jumped into the water to assist, but Alcazar was flailing his arms so much, they couldn’t hold on.
“So they had to let go of him, and had to make themselves come back to shore, or attach themselves to the pier itself for my guys to come rescue them,” Whiting Fire Chief Gus Danielides said. “At that time, the individual that was struggling went underneath the water, and he never came back up.”
“I don’t know why he would jump off in the first place, if he doesn’t know how to swim,” said Paola Gonzalez, the mother of Alcazar’s son.
The water in that area is 12 to 15 feet deep, and the lake temperature was in the low 60s at the time. Officials said, regardless of the conditions, no one should be jumpng into the lake from the pier.
“We have a beautiful park here. Obviously, with the rocks near the water, and especially the pier, don’t dive off the pier. I mean, we have a beautiful beach down there where it’s plenty of swimming to enjoy yourself. There’s no need to jump off the pier, jump off any rocks into this water,” Danielides said.
The U.S. Coast Guard, Lake County Sheriff’s marine unit, and Indiana conservation officers joined the search for Alcazar.
Alcazar’s body was recovered nearly 50 feet from the pier around 10:30 p.m. He was pronounced dead at 11:36 p.m., according to the Lake County Coroner’s office.
Whihala Beach lakefront supervisor Nick Kalwinski said the lake is more dangerous than it looks.
“Even on days when its calm like this, the currents are strong. Things are unpredictable. You don’t know bottom of sea floor, and everything else,” Kalwinski said. “So my advice would be always to go to guarded beaches where there’s lifeguards and there’s staff, and there’s personnel that can attend to things and respond and keep people safe.”
Family and friends said Alcazar was applying for his GED, and looking for work, but his main focus was always his son.
“Jaylin loved him so much,” Gonzalez said. “I don’t know how I’m going to do it, how am I going to tell him when he gets older? I don’t know.”
Alcazar was the fifth person to die in an apparent drowning in the Chicago area since Saturday.
Two brothers drowned Saturday night, after they went into a pit filled with water in Hobart, Ind. Terrion Smith, 8, and Donel Smith, 9, were playing with a group of friends around 7 p.m. Saturday, when some of the friends encouraged the boys to go into a pond that had formed when water filled a pit on property in the 4000 block of Missouri Street.
Sunday afternoon, a 4-year-old boy drowned in a swimming pool at Royal Fox Country Club in west suburban St. Charles.
Also Sunday afternoon, a 3-year-old girl drowned in a family member’s swimming pool in southwest suburban Morris.