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Mundelein man dies after jet ski capsizes in Lake Michigan near Waukegan

The Waukegan Fire Department and U.S. Coast Guard responded Saturday evening to two water rescue calls on Lake Michigan, fire officials said | Photo: Craig Uglinica / CU-Images.

A 50-year-old Mundelein man died after he was pulled from the water when his jet ski capsized on Lake Michigan near Waukegan on Saturday, the Lake County Coroner’s Office said.

John Otto, 50, of Mundelein, was pronounced dead around 7:45 p.m. Saturday at Vista Medical Center East in Waukegan, Lake County Coroner Dr. Howard Cooper said Tuesday afternoon.

The Waukegan Fire Department responded Saturday evening to the Waukegan Harbor at the fuel dock for a report of a capsized jet ski, Waukegan Fire Captain Anthony Soler said.

Two people, including Otto, were on the jet ski when it capsized and bystanders found Otto in the water unresponsive.

The bystanders rescued Otto and paramedics performed CPR on him, Soler said. He was transported in critical condition to the hospital where he was pronounced dead. The other passenger on the jet ski was uninjured.

An autopsy performed on Monday showed Otto died as a result of drowning, Cooper said. Toxicology results are pending.

The Waukegan Fire Department also responded around the same time Saturday evening to a separate water rescue on Lake Michigan near the NRG power plant, 401 East Greenwood Avenue, for a report of a capsized boat.

14 people were on the boat and some of them were in the water when fire crews arrived, Soler said.

All 14 people, which included children and adults, were safely rescued by a fire rescue boat and then transferred to a U.S. Coast Guard vessel, which brought them back to land. No one was injured.

“We are asking that these incidents serve as a reminder to stay vigilant in the water as this summer comes to an end,” Waukegan Fire Marshal Steven Lenzi said Monday.

Lake Michigan water levels are currently at historic highs and it has caused numerous issues for people on the water and on beaches, Lenzi added.

“Objects which were previously visible are now submerged and no longer visible. The areas that were once beach are now covered with water and many hidden objects can cause problems for swimmers. Lastly, the large boulders around the various piers and break walls that were formerly visible are now hidden as well under the deeper water,” Lenzi said.

“As the Labor Day weekend approaches and we all begin our plans to enjoy a beautiful end of summer weekend the Waukegan Fire Department asks anyone planning a beach weekend to take a moment and review some safety tips,” Lenzi said.

The Waukegan Fire Department released the following safety tips:

  1. Stay dry when waves are high. Pay attention to the media warnings if lakeshore advisories are posted, be aware of dangerous conditions and it may be best to enjoy a day at the beach but not in the water.
  2. Steer clear of the pier. High lake levels have created hidden hazards of submerged rocks along the piers.
  3. Know what to do if ever caught in a rip current. Three simple steps to safety with rip currents – 1. Follow the 3 F’s, stay calm- Flip Float and Follow (flip over to your back, float and conserve energy, follow the current until it’s safe), 2. Swim to the side 3. Safely head to shore.
  4. Never swim alone. Parents keep close eyes on your children if and when they are in the water.
  5. Be cautious of currents, waves and underwater objects. The waves come more frequently in the Great Lakes. They typically last three to five seconds, while in the ocean, waves last about 10 seconds or longer. And while the waves may look similar, they combine with the wind to produce dangerous currents.

“Labor Day weekend is coming up. This weekend is synonymous with the unofficial end of summer. Kids are going back to school, and before we know it, fall temperatures will be here. We at the Waukegan Fire Department want to remind everyone to stay safe, especially near the Lake, but also while out in the sun, by the grill, and even on the roads this coming holiday weekend,” Lenzi said.


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