CHICAGO (AP) – Without spotting so much as a scrap from a missing 30-foot boat in the chilly waters of Lake Michigan that turn deadly after about six hours, authorities stopped searching Monday for two people who apparently jumped into the water over the weekend.
“The Coast Guard searches for people we believe are alive and with the temperatures out there, the equipment they had … we don’t believe they survived,” Coast Guard spokesman Levi Read said.
Two people were pulled from the water: the first was a man who was spotted by a fisherman around 6:15 a.m. Sunday; the second was a woman identified by the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office on Monday as Ashley Haws, 26, of Chicago and formerly of Green Bay, Wisconsin. Haws, who was unconscious and in cardiac arrest when she was pulled from the water, was soon pronounced dead. The man remained hospitalized on Monday.
The discovery of the man triggered a massive search covering approximately 1,600 square miles that involved boats, at least one plane and a helicopter, said Read. The search was suspended Sunday night.
The rescued man was confused due to severe hypothermia and gave a number of accounts of what happened, how many people were on board and where they were headed. As a result, rescuers initially thought they were looking for five or six people, Read said.
But as the man warmed up and became more coherent, he told authorities that four people were on the boat when it caught fire Saturday night, forcing them to jump in the water. He had said the boat was sailing from Chicago to New Buffalo, Michigan, but then the man’s account changed and he said it was heading from New Buffalo to Chicago, Read said.
Still unanswered, though, is why the people on board did not place a distress call on the radio that was presumably on the boat or attempt to signal other boaters that they were in trouble.
“The Coast Guard heard nothing on the radio, no flares were seen during the night,” said Larry Langford, spokesman for the Chicago Fire Department, which participated in the search.
Nobody reported seeing a fire on the lake and neither the boat nor any debris has been found, Read said.
“Usually, if the boat is intact it will remain afloat and if it doesn’t we find some kind of debris,” he said.
Both people pulled from the water were wearing life jackets and Read said that even if the two others – a 30-year-old man and a 27-year-old woman – were wearing life jackets, the expected survival time in water that is approximately 60 degrees is only six hours. The search was called off more than 15 hours after the first man was pulled from the water.
The fire department and the Coast Guard have halted their search and the Chicago Police Department said it may resume what is called a “recovery” search Monday.