Lake Michigan breaks record for deadliest year for drownings: Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project

Noble Horvath

CHICAGO (WLS) — In 2020, 53 people have drowned in Lake Michigan making it the deadliest year on record, according to The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project data. As of September 11, 53 people drowned in Lake Michigan, according to GLSRP. Not included in that data was the death of […]

CHICAGO (WLS) — In 2020, 53 people have drowned in Lake Michigan making it the deadliest year on record, according to The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project data.

As of September 11, 53 people drowned in Lake Michigan, according to GLSRP.

Not included in that data was the death of a 24-year-old man who died after he was pulled from Lake Michigan Monday night near Monroe Harbor.

The previous record for Lake Michigan drownings was set in 2012 with 49 fatalities.

Overall there have been 434 Lake Michigan drownings since 2010, according to GLSRP. For the entire Great Lakes, there have been 94 drownings in 2020; and 931 Great Lakes drownings since 2010.

“In addition to the confirmed drownings, there are an additional 6 drowning incidents where the victims were last listed as ‘Critical Condition,’ ‘Unknown Condition,’ or ‘Missing.’ The GLSRP is awaiting updates on these incidents,” GLSRP said in a statement Saturday.

At the beginning of July, Chicago model and former flight attendant Ameera Muhammad went missing while swimming at night with family and friends off a boat in Lake Michigan.

Chicago police said the boat hit a break wall as a storm blew through the area. Chicago Fire Deputy District Chief for Dive Operations Jason Lach said several people from the boat were already swimming in the water when the boat hit the break wall.

Muhammad went under and never surfaced, officials said.

Also in July, a 30-year-old Chicago man died after being rescued from Lake Michigan at Clark Street Beach in Evanston, police said.

A good samaritan at the beach attempted to rescue the victim from the water as responding lifeguards and officials pulled them to shore.

On September 6, a 32-year-old Clarence “CJ” Weaver Jr. and his friends rented a pontoon boat to enjoy the summer day.

Weaver was on the high school swim team and loved the water, according to his family, but when he jumped into the lake, he did not come back up.

In August, a 15-year-old boy went into the lake near Diversey Harbor a with three other friends and never came out. Instead, he was swept away from shore by the incredibly high waves.

After the 15-year-old drowned, David Benjamin, the executive director of the GLSRP, said his group has been writing the mayor for years for more safety measures every 400 feet along the lake path, but nothing has been done.

He believed the 15-year-old’s death was preventable.

“If you’re gonna provide the access to the water, there should be rescue equipment, updated signage as well as lifeguard protection, especially when you’re gonna close the beaches and push people to these dangerous spots. They’re essentially getting herded to these dangerous spots,” he said at the time.

Late in August, a Chicago teenager drowned while swimming with his friends at Porter Beach Sunday morning in Indiana.

Authorities said high winds and rip currents played a role in the incident.

Also in late August, a man drowned in Lake Michigan at 31st Street Beach while trying to save his 12-year-old daughter after he slipped and fell off of a rock.

Rene Padilla, 35, from Blue Island was overpowered by high waves, witnesses said, as he tried to save his daughter.

“She fell in and he jumped in after her and the girls told me right now, ‘We watched him drown,'” said Roberto Spagnolo, Padilla’s boss and friend. “They said he just went down. He was so strong, I don’t know how he couldn’t fight it.”

Padilla, who wanted to spend one day with his two daughters before they went back to school next week, told Spagnolo that he wanted to take a rare day off from work because they always wanted to go to the beach.

The video in the player above is from a previously reported story.

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