Search for Elgin woman missing in Lake Michigan suspended

 
 
Updated 11/5/2018 5:34 PM
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  • Search operations resumed Monday morning for 52-year-old Elgin woman Lena Lemesh who went missing Sunday while swimming in Lake Michigan near Park Avenue Beach in Highland Park. An Itasca man with the same group of swimmers was pulled from the water unresponsive Sunday and later pronounced dead.

      Search operations resumed Monday morning for 52-year-old Elgin woman Lena Lemesh who went missing Sunday while swimming in Lake Michigan near Park Avenue Beach in Highland Park. An Itasca man with the same group of swimmers was pulled from the water unresponsive Sunday and later pronounced dead. Madhu Krishnamurthy | Staff Photographer

  • Rescue boats from the Highland Park Fire Department and U.S. Coast Guard searched off Park Avenue Beach in Highland Park on Monday for an Elgin woman who went missing Sunday while swimming in what authorities described as dangerous conditions.

      Rescue boats from the Highland Park Fire Department and U.S. Coast Guard searched off Park Avenue Beach in Highland Park on Monday for an Elgin woman who went missing Sunday while swimming in what authorities described as dangerous conditions. Madhu Krishnamurthy | Staff Photographer

  • Search operations resumed Monday morning for 52-year-old Elgin woman Lena Lemesh who went missing Sunday while swimming in Lake Michigan near Park Avenue Beach in Highland Park. An Itasca man with the same group of swimmers was pulled from the water unresponsive Sunday and later pronounced dead.

      Search operations resumed Monday morning for 52-year-old Elgin woman Lena Lemesh who went missing Sunday while swimming in Lake Michigan near Park Avenue Beach in Highland Park. An Itasca man with the same group of swimmers was pulled from the water unresponsive Sunday and later pronounced dead. Madhu Krishnamurthy | Staff Photographer

Rescuers suspended their search at sunset Monday for a 52-year-old Elgin woman who went missing Sunday while swimming in Lake Michigan, but they expect to return tomorrow in hopes of locating Lena Lemesh.

Lemesh, 52, disappeared off a Highland Park beach while she and nine other members of a cold-water swimming group attempted to navigate what authorities described as dangerous conditions.

A second member of the group, Stanislaw Wlosek Jr., 46, of Itasca was pulled from the water unresponsive by emergency responders later Sunday and taken to Highland Park Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

Preliminary autopsy results show he died as a result of drowning. The Lake County coroner's office and Highland Park Police Department are continuing to investigate Wlosek's death. Toxicology is pending.

"Mr. Wlosek's family has been notified and our deepest condolences go out to them," Lake County Coroner Howard Cooper said. "Lake Michigan is a very dangerous place under certain conditions and people should use extreme caution when entering."

Rescue operations resumed off Park Avenue Beach about 8 a.m. Monday, Highland Park Fire Department Batallion Chief Stan Olson said. The search involved five vessels from both the fire department and U.S. Coast Guard, as well as shoreline checks and aerial searches conducted by the Chicago Police Department and an aircraft from Pilots for Hope, a volunteer aerial search and rescue group.

"We are searching from the last seen point north of Park Avenue Beach," Olson said.

Officials plan to resume the search at 8 a.m. Tuesday. Police departments along the Lake Michigan shoreline in Illinois and Wisconsin have been advised to monitor their beaches for the missing swimmer, authorities said.

The Highland Park Park District describes Park Avenue Beach as a non-swimming beach with sand and concrete launches for boats. A sign posted on the beach reads, "No swimming or wading allowed."

Park district Executive Director Liza McElroy didn't say why swimming is not allowed there, just that it has been a longtime policy.

"We have other activities there" such as boating and sailing, McElroy said. Only one of the city's four beaches allows swimming, she said.

Highland Park Assistant City Manager Rob Sabo said the beach primarily is used as a boat launching facility.

"Park Avenue Beach is designed as a boat launch for motorboats, powerboats, in addition to sail boats, jet-skis and various other watercraft," he said. "With the launching of such vessels, Park Avenue Beach has not been designated a swimming beach to avoid accidents involving swimmers and watercraft and to ensure boater safety."

Sabo said the swim Sunday was not a formal event.

"Rather it was a group of people with a shared interest in cold weather swimming who gathered on Sunday to recreationally attempt to enter the lake in cold-weather conditions," he said.

Nearly 10 percent of Illinois' Lake Michigan shoreline is within Highland Park, according to the park district. Since 2002, there have been five current-related deaths and 11 rescues from the Lake County shoreline, according to the National Weather Service's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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