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updated: 4/17/2012 3:05 PM

Swan attack contributed to man's drowning death

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  • Swans on the pond of Bay Colony Condominiums in Des Plaines. Female nesting on the left as male patrols the area.

       Swans on the pond of Bay Colony Condominiums in Des Plaines. Female nesting on the left as male patrols the area.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

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An attack by an aggressive swan contributed to the drowning of a Villa Park man Saturday in the pond of a Des Plaines-area condominium complex, Cook County sheriff's police believe.

Anthony Hensley, 37, was pronounced dead at 8:16 a.m. Saturday after being pulled from the pond and taken to Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, officials said. His death was ruled an accidental drowning by the Cook County medical examiner's office.

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Hensley was working for a company that deploys swans to keep geese away from ponds and lakes in housing complexes, corporate parks, municipal grounds and other properties.

Cook County sheriff's police spokesman Frank Bilecki said Hensley was in a kayak Saturday checking on the status of the swans at the Bay Colony Condominiums in unincorporated Maine Township. It's believed he may have gotten too close to a swan or its nest and was attacked, Bilecki said.

A jogger reported seeing Hensley fall out of a kayak and into the water. Neither of two eyewitnesses reported seeing the swan attacking Hensley, but they said it was circling the Villa Park man after he was in the water.

One witness saw Hensley initially swimming toward shore, but he eventually went under the water and did not resurface, Bilecki said. First-responders received the first call for help about 7 a.m. Saturday, and divers found Hensley at 7:50 a.m.

"He was just a kind, decent man who looked after his family well," Hensley's mother-in-law, Kathleen Koutsogiannis, said Monday. "People would be happy to know him."

Hensley and his wife, Amy, were married for seven years and had two daughters, ages 1 and 3.

"He was just a marvelous young man," said Charles Emery, a retired Methodist pastor who's known the Hensley family for 15 years. "He was very light-hearted and could light up a room. He was a good father and a good husband."

Hensley lived his entire life in the Villa Park area and was a successful athlete at Willowbrook High School, Emery said.

"He worked for this company for 10 years, and he loved it," Emery added. "He was an outdoors kind of person, and it was an outdoors kind of job."

Calls placed with Hensley's employer were not returned Monday, while the staff at the Bay Colony

Condominiums referred questions to an off-site manager who also did not return calls.
Mark Spreyer, a naturalist at Stillman Nature Center in South Barrington, said the aggressiveness of swans, particularly during the breeding season, is well-known to anyone who works with them.

"Swans are obviously quite strong animals," Spreyer said. "If you've got to carry a swan around, that's a lot of bird under your arm. They are spectacular birds to watch ... at a distance."

Susan Allman of North Barrington, a member and instructor for the Prairie State Canoeists, said anyone planning to be in a kayak also has to plan to not be in a kayak.

"Paddling is an activity where you could suddenly go swimming," Allman said. "It's going to happen. When you least expect it is usually when it happens."

Allman said a number of factors can come into play when someone is unexpectedly thrown out of a boat. A low water temperature can be a shock to the body, while heavy clothes or boots can become filled with water and drag a person down. Allman's organization strongly recommends wearing a personal flotation device at all times.

Emery said Hensley's death is financially devastating for his family, as he had no life insurance. A memorial fund has been set up to help the family. Donations may be sent to his wife in care of the Steuerle Funeral Home, 350 S. Ardmore Ave., Villa Park, IL 60181.

A visitation will take place at the funeral home from 2 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, and services will begin there at 11 a.m. Thursday.

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