Beach safety reminders issued after boy, 7, drowns in Lake Michigan

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Officials are warning against people entering Lake Michigan after a 7-year-old boy drowned Thursday while a beach hazard statement was in effect.

Mark Bedella told NBC Chicago that he heard the sirens at around 5 p.m. on Thursday evening

It was the sound of rescue crews rushing to answer the call for help, after a Chicago boy was swept out into deep water near Portage, Indiana.

“It’s sad,” Bedella said. “There’s so much going on with the currents, the rocks, even if you’re a good swimmer, good swimmers have died out there. It’s just another world out there.”

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources said the boy was about waist-deep in the water when he ventured out further and got caught in the strong current. A family member tried to help, but lost sight of him.

About 20 minutes later, he was pulled from the water but it was already too late.

He had drowned.

“Lake Michigan conditions can be very treacherous,” said Dave Benjamin, co-founder and executive director of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. “Drowning is a nationwide problem that gets very little public attention.”

Benjamin said this tragedy should serve as a reminder of the dangers of the lake, especially as people plan to spend time around the water this Father’s Day weekend.

“This weekend, we’ll have some high temps but the water is still cold,” Benjamin said. “So even this weekend, the water will be calm, but we could still have drowning incidents that happen even on green flag or yellow flag days.”

Bedella hopes more people will wear lifejackets after learning of the boy’s death.

“I would say just wear a life jacket no matter what. And if it’s rough surf, don’t go in if you don’t know,” Bedella said. “But if you have a life jacket on, you have a chance.”

The boy’s identity has not been released. The investigation is ongoing.

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