CHICAGO (CBS) — Brian Wiles had a love affair with Lake Michigan.
It was the lake that once made him a hero, when he jumped in to save a man. Years later, Wiles’ friend was remembering him, after Wiles lost his life in the one place he loved.
As CBS 2’s Tara Molina reported, it was six years ago this month at Monroe Harbor where Wiles, 46, made headlines for a heroic rescue. It was a rescue, Wiles’ friends and family said, that was a perfect example of who he was.
His spilt-second decision saved a man’s life.
“He did not hesitate one moment,” said Wiles’ friend Gray Johnston.
Wiles dove into the water to grab a man in his 90s whose wheelchair rolled into Monroe Harbor.
A trained captain, Wiles was to get the man to shore on his own.
“Saved a man’s life,” Johnston said.
The man he saved was a priest.
“I said, ‘You must have an in now with the guy upstairs!’” Johnston said. “So, I hope he got right in that front door.”
Johnston told us that story says a lot about his close friend of more than 20 years – a friend he just lost.
“He was sailor in his heart,” Johnston said.
According to police, Wiles went missing from the group he was with at Jackson Harbor on Sunday.
Search teams scanned the area around the harbor into the night. The Chicago Police Marine Unit found him in the water around 9 p.m.
Wiles was rushed to the University of Chicago Medical Center, but was pronounced dead.
“He lost his life to the same waters that he saved a man’s life from,” Johnston said.
Wile’s family wasn’t available to go on camera, but his sister told Molina that they won’t remember him by the circumstances of his death.
They will remember him as a man who smiled biggest on his boat, loved his family, and was the kind of guy who’d do just about anything for a total stranger.
“He was a good person,” Johnston said. “He had a good heart.”
Molina checked in with Chicago Police and was told detectives were still investigating Wiles’ death late Tuesday.