Two people drowned and three others were rescued from the water at a northwest Indiana beach Saturday afternoon, according to the Gary Fire Department.
Around 2:28 p.m., fire officials responded to a call at Wells Street Beach in Gary, Indiana. There they found 5 people stuck in powerful currents in Lake Michigan.
The National Weather Service issued a Beach Hazards Statement warning beachgoers to stay out of the water Saturday, as high waves and strong currents proved treacherous.
Emergency responders pulled the five people from the water, officials said. Two left on their own from the beach, and three were taken to area hospitals, according to Mark Jones, the Chief of Operations for the Gary Fire Department.
Of the three that were taken to the hospital, two were pronounced dead while the third was listed in stable condition, authorities said.
David Halford, 37, of the 3700 block of Colbourne St in Hobart, Indiana, and Kyle Reibly, 26, of the 1200 block of N Indiana St in Griffith, Indiana, were both pronounced dead before 4 p.m., according to the Lake County Coroner's office. Halford was initially incorrectly identified by the coroner as David Alden.
Vernon Lesner was one of the people who survived the experience, and he told NBC 5 that he and three others, including his good friend David, jumped into the water to rescue a child struggling in the current.
"We were having a good time, and all of a sudden someone said there's a kid in the water," Lesner said.
"We had a mission," he added. "We were like, 'Hey this kid's coming back to shore, no matter what. No matter what happens, we all stick together, and that's what we did."
Lesner said he was pulled from the water, and once he began breathing and regained consciousness, he asked where his friend Dave was. But Halford was already in an ambulance.
Friends and family remembered Dave, a father of three, as someone who took care of everyone, even going out of his way to help strangers.
"I think he's a hero," said friend Ron Smith. "He's a hero. He went out in a blaze of glory."