Boy, 14, Drowns in McKinley Park Pool

Christopher Bowen's friend says lifeguards on duty did little to help teen

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Friend says lifeguards did little to help Christopher Bowen at McKinley Park pool. Rob Elgas reports. (Published Friday, Aug 9, 2013)

    A Brighton Park neighborhood teenager who frequented the McKinley Park pool apparently drowned in the place he'd spent so much time.

    "He would go to McKinley Park pool all the time, like all the kids in the neighborhood," Sherry Hedge said of her nephew, Christopher Bowen.

    A lifeguard pulled the 14-year-old from the pool, on the 2200 block of West Pershing Road, shortly before 3 p.m., authorities said. A Park District official on the site who would not give his name said Bowen died after what "appeared to be a dive gone wrong."

    A friend, whose identity NBC Chicago is keeping private due to his age, witnessed Bowen's death.

    "I came out the water, and these guys are like, 'Hey! Hey! He's drowning!,' and the lifeguard is just sitting right there without doing anything, so I grabbed him and pushed him up," the friend said.

    Seconds later a stranger -- not a lifeguard -- came to assist, the friend said.

    "He grabbed him but his head was still in the water," Bowen's friend recalled. "I told him, 'Take his head out the water.' So we push him up and the lifeguard is still sitting there."

    Paramedics took the unresponsive boy to Mount Sinai Hospital, but doctors were unable to revive him, officials said. Bowen, of the 3700 block of South Rockwell Street, was declared dead at 3:22 p.m., according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office. An autopsy was scheduled for Saturday.

    For Bowen's family, details of the death remained elusive Friday night.

    "We're trying to figure out protocol. Where were the two lifeguards in the deep end. Where were the two lifeguards in the chair? Was there a lifeguard walking in the deep end?" questioned Hedge.

    Witnesses said the pool is often packed with children but on Friday was not. Still, as many as eight lifeguards were on duty, witnesses said.

    "The loss of this young life is a tragedy. The Chicago Park District is investigating the circumstances behind this incident,' park district spokeswoman Jessica Maxey-Faulkner said in a statement.

    Area Central detectives were investigating.