Two women were pulled from Lake Michigan early Friday morning, but a man with them drowned and another man is missing. The four boaters were separated from their sail boat about three miles off shore after going for a swim at around 2 a.m.
None of the boaters, all said to be in their early 20s, were wearing a life vest, police said.
Initial reports show the boat's motor had been left running when everyone on board jumped into the water for a swim, a source told NBC Chicago. The boat drifted off and all they all got separated trying to swim to it.
"Cannabis" was found on the boat, the source said, but there was no mention of alcohol.
The rescued women, whose names have not been released, were treading water in the 65-degree lake for the better part of five hours, said Chicago Police Marine Unit Sergeant Jim VanVraken.
The women, one of whom was 19 years old, were rescued by fishermen who had headed out to work at daybreak. Bill Duran of Mokena, the captain of a 31-foot motor boat, said he saw something moving in the water near his boat. Recognizing it was a woman, he tossed a flotation device overboard and pulled her in.
"Had it not been for that fisherman, there's no way these girls would have made it back to shore," said VanVraken.
The woman was disoriented and repeated "Lake and Randolph" several times, but she managed to say she had been with three others.
Duran found another girl treading water about 1,000 feet away. He and his crew tried to keep both women warm and took them back to Burnham harbor, where EMS was waiting.
"We did what anyone else in the same situation would have done," said Duran. "We're just glad we were there at the right time. It's amazing that they treaded water for that long."
Duran said his boat thermometer read 70 degrees at the time of rescue.
"So fortunately it was warm enough," he said.
The women were taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in serious to critical condition, police said. They may have suffered from hypothermia, according to police.
"It's amazing. Apparently their will to survive outweighed mother nature," said VanVraken.
Police divers recovered the body of one man, 21-year-old James Shepherd. His body was found about 1/2 mile from shore near Burnham Harbor, police said. An autopsy is scheduled for Saturday.
Shepherd was an avid sailer who had won many competitions, his twin sister told the Chicago Tribune.
"He loved sailing," said Sydney Shepherd.
Police are still searching for the second man.
Officials said there didn't appear to be foul play, but the Marine Unit police are treating the the area like a crime scene, and the boat, reportedly named the Joan's Arc, was towed into the harbor for an investigation.