Footage of a human chain rescue from the frigid waters of Lake Michigan was released Monday—and the officers who formed the lifesaving formation shared details of their heroic efforts with reporters.
Officers pulled a 33-year-old man Sunday afternoon after he dove in to the lake to save his 9-month-old dog near Foster Beach on the North Side just after 1 p.m., police said.
Chicago police Cmdr. Sean Loughran said the man was familiar with the beachfront and had been visiting it for about seven years before the near-death experience. The first time he took his young dog to the area, it took off and jumped into the water, police said.
“Without hesitation he jumped in to rescue his dog, not realizing he had created a situation where he was in jeopardy himself,” Loughran said.
The police commander said a call came in that someone was in the water in the area—and a woman walking her dog also flagged down nearby officers.
“They formed a human chain and braved the elements going far beyond the shoreline and out onto the ice shelf,” Loughran said. “While holding each other’s equipment belts, legs, threw a dog leash out to the man and pulled him to safety.”
Sgt. Alex Silva said he and the other officers who answered the call were never trained specifically to make human chains to rescue someone from the water.
“No, no, no—it just makes sense,” he told reporters. “I’ve seen videos of ice rescues and other rescues where people held on to each other.”
Silva said a woman who he thinks originally flagged down police let him use her dog’s leash to throw to the man in the water.
After he threw the leash to the man, he said, he could feel officers grab onto his belt. Body camera videos show that other officers followed suit and began grabbing on to one another’s belts to form the chain, he said.
The video, released by police, shows a frantic struggle to pull the frozen and soaking man from the deadly waters to the ice shelf.
“We got you,” one of the officers in the video tells the man as he’s yanked to safety.
Loughran said emergency room officials registered the man’s core temperature at 93 degrees.
“He was certainly I jeopardy of losing his life,” Loughran said.
The water was about 34 degrees, Silva said.
“At that temperature you can’t last long,” the officers said. “So I knew time was of the essence—and it just worked out really well.”
He said the whole rescue took about a minute or a minute and a half.
Officer Miguel Del Toro said he and the other officers had to get on their hands and knees to climb over the slippery ice ridge to get to the man in water.
He said the man had thrown his dog back onto the shore, so when police saw the pup at the water’s edge, they knew where to find the man. The dog was “a little thing,” Del Toro said. “Wet, scared” and weighed maybe about 20 pounds.
The officers in the 20th District, where the rescue occurred, have about two miles of beachfront to patrol and save about four people from the water a year, Loughran said.