Itasca man dead, Elgin woman missing after swimming in Lake Michigan

An Itasca man died and an Elgin woman is missing after encountering dangerous conditions while swimming in Lake Michigan on Sunday, officials said.

Authorities responded about 9:15 a.m. to Park Avenue Beach in Highland Park, where 10 people involved in an independent cold-weather swim group entered the water from the boat launch area and were struggling in the rough conditions, according to a news release from Highland Park. Two swimmers were in distress and were unaccounted for at the scene.

An unresponsive 46-year-old Itasca man was pulled out of the water by emergency responders and taken to Highland Park Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival, officials said. His identity has not been released. Lake County Coroner Howard Cooper said an autopsy is scheduled for Monday.

A 52-year-old Elgin woman remained missing as of Sunday evening.

Boats were unable to enter the water because of the high waves and hazardous conditions, U.S. Coast Guard Master Chief Alan Haraf said. Local agencies searched from the shore, and a Coast Guard helicopter arrived about 11:45 a.m. to assist, officials said.

Highland Park resident Steve Knapp told the Chicago Sun-Times that he and other members of the North Shore Yacht Club were getting the club ready for winter when the swim group entered the water at an adjacent public beach. He said he saw two men struggling and then noticed a woman further out in open water.

Knapp and another yacht club member tried to throw flotation devices toward the woman, but she became unresponsive, he told the Sun-Times. He went inside to get a pole with a hook on the end, he said, but the waves and wind had pushed the woman north of the club by the time he returned.

Just before 4 p.m., the aircrew suspended its search of a roughly 10-square-mile area near where the woman was last seen, Haraf said. Highland Park officials said Sunday evening their search efforts are continuing, and police departments along the Lake Michigan shoreline have been asked to monitor their beaches for the missing swimmer.

The National Weather Service on Sunday afternoon warned of strong winds of nearly 40 mph and waves reaching 10 feet high along the lakefront. Haraf said water temperatures were about 55 degrees.

Anyone with information about the missing swimmer is asked to contact the Highland Park Police Department at (847) 432-7730.

First responders gather at the scene where a woman went missing in Lake Michigan near Highland Park on Sunday. Colin Boyle/Chicago Sun-Times
First responders gather Sunday at the scene where a woman went missing in Lake Michigan near Highland Park. Colin Boyle/Chicago Sun-Times
U.S. Coast Guard searches for a woman who is missing Sunday in Lake Michigan near Highland Park. Colin Boyle/Chicago Sun-Times
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