A father is in custody after two young boys died as rescuers pulled them out of the Kankakee River in northwest Indiana Tuesday.
Eric Patillo, 34, of Thayer, Indiana, was being held at the Lake County Jail pending charges of neglect of a dependent resulting in death, authorities said. He had not been formally charged as of Wednesday afternoon.
Lake County Sheriff Oscar Martinez Jr. called the case "tragic," saying officers responding to the scene struggled when they learned two young boys, ages 2 and 4, had drowned in the river.
Police said officers were dispatched to the boat launch area of the Kankakee River near West 241st Street and the Illinois state line after two children were pulled from the water.
Police said a witness called 911 to alert them the children were in danger of drowning after witnessing Patillo acting strangely.
"According to witnesses, they observed Mr. Patillo acting strangely, possibly on narcotics," Martinez Jr. said. "The witnesses said they called 911 because they were concerned."
Patillo was tested for drugs and alcohol, but the results were pending, officials said.
Police said they are still looking to speak with a witness, identified as Jesse Lintner from Demotte, Indiana. According to authorities, Lintner pulled one of the children out of the water.
A 4-year-old child, later identified as Levi Patillo, of the 11900 block of Nassau Lane in Demotte, was taken to Franciscan Health hospital in Crown Point where he was pronounced dead at 6:49 p.m., according to the Lake County coroner's office. Evan Patillo, 2 years old, was taken to Riverside Hospital in Illinois where "unfortunately attempts at life saving measures were unsuccessful," police said.
The Lake County Sheriff's Office said an investigation remained ongoing Wednesday.