‘This could have ended in disaster’: Sheriff’s Marine Unit rescues teens adrift in Lake Michigan

Authorities say disaster was averted when two teenage paddle boarders adrift in Lake Michigan were rescued Wednesday afternoon by the Lake County Sheriff’s Office Marine Unit.

The unit was on patrol about 1:30 p.m. when a girl from Lake Bluff and a boy from Wauconda, both 16, were spotted about a mile from shore, according to sheriff’s Deputy Chief Chris Covelli.

The pair was unable to overcome the wind and lake current pulling them away from shore and toward the center of the lake, he said. Neither was wearing a life vest nor had a phone or any other type of communication or emergency devices.

“With no life vests, no emergency equipment, no way to call for help — this could have ended in disaster,” Covelli said.

Deputies pulled the teens from the water and were able to retrieve their paddle boards. Neither was injured and the two were reunited with family at Lake Forest Marina.

After 6 years, Lake County sheriff’s marine unit resumes patrols on Lake Michigan

In cases like this, people often aren’t reported missing until they don’t return home for several hours, Covelli noted.

“This would have prompted a large search and rescue mission, but with all of the variables to consider with Lake Michigan, it would have been like trying to find a needle in a haystack,” he added.

The save comes within a week of Sheriff John D. Idleburg announcing that the sheriff’s marine unit had resumed patrols on Lake Michigan.

According to the sheriff’s office, the marine unit in recent years had been unable to patrol or respond to calls on the more than 900 square miles of Lake Michigan in its jurisdiction because it didn’t have a boat that could safely operate on the lake.

The Lake County Board this spring authorized the purchase of two marine patrol boats. The other is being used on the Chain ‘O Lakes.

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