Ayana Patterson was swimming at North Avenue Beach with her uncle when she went underwater. Jeff Goldblatt reports.
Twenty-nine people have drowned so far this year in Lake Michigan; 19 of them in the Chicago area. Had it not been for a heroic rescue along North Avenue Beach on Friday, there would have been one more.
"It quickly turned from a beautiful day at the beach with a little sun and a little wind, to crazy wind and rain, " said Chicago Sport and Social's Jason Erkes.
That fast-moving storm created a rainbow. There was sunshine and perhaps a false sense of security in the water for Timothy Hollins, his ex-girlfriend and his two 12-year-old nieces.
Hollins said the group was on what he thought was sound footing, but in an instant the lake bottomed out.
"Man, it was over my head," he said. "All of a sudden, the water was just over my head. ... I was fighting against the current, trying to hold three people up, but it was just impossible."
Other swimmers and lifeguards quickly sprang to action, pulling out three of the four struggling swimmers fairly quickly.
But somewhere under that water was young Ayanna Patterson.
Lifeguards eventually found her but she was in bad shape. She was initially taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in critical condition. First responders worked on her and her condition was later stabilized. She was transferred to Lurie Children's Hospital late Friday evening.
"[Lifeguards] did a great job. It was amazing. They were all out there," said Naperville's Michelle Pochly, who was at the beach with her husband and three kids.
Hollins said he believes he's a good swimmer but said Lake Michigan's currents are "no joke." He said he never thought swimming on the beach Friday would be risky because of the green flag posted on the beach indicating that swimming is permitted.
Minutes after the near-drowning, park district crews hoisted a yellow flag advising caution.