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updated: 8/8/2011 5:59 AM

Naperville man 'didn't hesitate' to save Bolingbrook boy on Fox River

Naperville man's actions heroic, family says

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  • 59-year-old Randy Suchy of Naperville helped save 12-year-old Evan Schwarz of Bolingbrook from a Fox River undertow near the Geneva dam.

      59-year-old Randy Suchy of Naperville helped save 12-year-old Evan Schwarz of Bolingbrook from a Fox River undertow near the Geneva dam.
    Photo courtesy of Patty Suchy

  • A small memorial marks the site along the Fox River in Geneva where 59-year-old Randy Suchy of Naperville helped save 12-year-old Evan Schwarz of Bolingbrook from an undertow near the dam.

       A small memorial marks the site along the Fox River in Geneva where 59-year-old Randy Suchy of Naperville helped save 12-year-old Evan Schwarz of Bolingbrook from an undertow near the dam.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • The Illinois Department of Natural Resources in 2006 began looking into removing the Geneva dam after deaths at other dams along the Fox River.

       The Illinois Department of Natural Resources in 2006 began looking into removing the Geneva dam after deaths at other dams along the Fox River.
    Mark Black | Staff Photographer

  • The state of Illinois Department of Natural Resources never made a final decision about whether to remove or upgrade the Geneva dam after studying options for the site and several other dams statewide in 2006 and 2007, Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns said Saturday.

       The state of Illinois Department of Natural Resources never made a final decision about whether to remove or upgrade the Geneva dam after studying options for the site and several other dams statewide in 2006 and 2007, Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns said Saturday.
    Mark Black | Staff Photographer

  • Crist Lampkin of Chicago fishes south of the Geneva dam on Saturday afternoon. Lampkin, who has fished for almost 20 years, said he rarely goes wading by himself because it's a constant struggle against the water, and it can be dangerous.

       Crist Lampkin of Chicago fishes south of the Geneva dam on Saturday afternoon. Lampkin, who has fished for almost 20 years, said he rarely goes wading by himself because it's a constant struggle against the water, and it can be dangerous.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

 
 

When his girlfriend's 12-year-old son slipped into the Fox River on Friday in Geneva, Randy Suchy showed what kind of person he was.

The Naperville man dove in without hesitation to help save Evan Schwarz of Bolingbrook, who became trapped underwater just south of the dam. While the 59-year-old succeeded in saving the boy's life, it cost him his own. He later died at a hospital.

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On Saturday, family members said Suchy's final heroic actions were reflective of his character.

"Everyone I've talked to said it would be just like Randy to give his life for someone else's," said Suchy's brother Bill. "And that's how I want him to be remembered."

According to Geneva police, witnesses said Evan lost his footing about 11:30 a.m. Friday while trying to find a new fishing spot on a rock below the dam.

When Evan went into the water, Suchy rushed to his aid. Bill Suchy said the boy survived because his brother -- a veteran who was a captain in the Marines -- pushed Evan far enough away from the dam to escape its undertow.

But Suchy was underwater for two to three minutes, authorities told his brother.

"He's one of the kindest and most giving people that you'll ever meet," said his girlfriend, Marcy Schwarz. "He would do anything for anybody, and he obviously did."

Bystanders and emergency responders who aided in Evan's rescue also praised Suchy for his fast and selfless actions.

"I have no doubt that he went in there to try to get that little boy, Evan, out of the water," said the Rev. Clint Roberts of Knox Presbyterian Church in Naperville, who was biking along the Fox River and noticed Evan and Suchy struggling to stay afloat. "He clearly didn't hesitate."

Geneva police Deputy Cmdr. Eric Passarelli said Suchy's "actions were clearly very heroic and tragically resulted in him losing his life."

Evan was released midday Saturday from Edward Hospital in Naperville after 24 hours in the pediatric intensive care unit.

"He's doing as well as can be expected," his mother said. "He's stable, and he's just been through a lot."

Along with Suchy, Evan has Neil Goltermann of Naperville to thank for helping him survive his slip into the river just south of the Geneva dam and the waterfall it creates.

"I went after him because the current was taking him down the river," said Goltermann, who arrived at the scene while biking with Roberts. "I was just the first one to react."

Goltermann said he and another biker caught up with Evan and began giving him CPR while the boy was still in the river. Goltermann suffered minor injuries to his feet and said he was given stitches as a precaution at Delnor Hospital.

"I had a chance to speak to (Evan) for a few minutes," Goltermann said. "It was fairly emotional."

It was a tragic end to a day that started on a high note as a long-awaited fishing trip, his mother said. She had encouraged Suchy to take her son fishing, and to bring a friend of Evan's along.

"(Suchy) hadn't been fishing all summer because he had been working so hard," Schwarz said.

Suchy worked two jobs as a nurse, caring for people in nursing homes in Lisle and Wheaton, said his brother Bill, of West Chicago. He also was busy planning the 40-year reunion of Hinsdale Central High School's Class of 1971, scheduled for Aug. 20.

When he took Evan and the boy's friend fishing Friday, Suchy went to a spot in Geneva he frequented with his brother. The two, who spent most of their childhood living in Oak Brook, remained as close as best friends, Bill Suchy said.

"He loved to fish; he loved to snowboard. That's what we did together our whole lives," he said.

The accident occurred near a low-head dam that had been considered for removal or safety improvements after an Illinois Department of Natural Resources study was released in 2007.

Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns said the state never made a decision about whether to remove, improve or leave alone the Geneva dam.

The permit engineer for the state's Illinois Dam Safety Program did not return a call Saturday.

But Burns said the community is interested in making the dam safer.

"If the city of Geneva can, in cooperation with the state DNR or the Army Corps (of Engineers), make that dam safer still, we're willing to do that," Burns said. "There's no question about it."

Christ Lampkin of Chicago, who fished the Fox River on Saturday from the shore at the location of Suchy and Evan's accident, said he knows the dangers rivers present -- quickly changing depths, rocks, currents and undertows. Kids Evan's age often are not strong enough to adjust if conditions surprise them, he said.

Passarelli of the Geneva Police Department said signs are posted and buoys float around the city's dam, warning everyone to stay more than 100 feet north of the dam and more than 50 feet south of it. Such measures are required under a 2007 state law enacted to stop people from getting too close to low-head dams that can create dangerous rushing waters.

"We have very good success with people calling (police) when they feel that somebody is too close to the dam," Passarelli said. "Our officers are very proactive, and when they see a violation, they act on it."

Passarelli said he did not know exactly how far away Suchy, Evan and the other boy were from the dam when they began fishing. But after Evan's fall, he and Suchy likely ended up closer than 50 feet from the south side of the dam.

As the chaperon of the fishing excursion, Suchy was experienced and also "a very accomplished scuba diver," his girlfriend said. He loved Chicago sports, especially the White Sox and the Bears.

And as family members and friends make funeral arrangements, they say they'll remember Suchy exactly as he was.

"As a hero," Schwarz said. "As a hero."

Heroic: Geneva mayor says city willing to make dam safer

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