Eight people were rescued from Lake Michigan at about 5 p.m. Thursday following a sudden change in weather.

The dramatic and dangerous effort was spread out over a mile across the lakefront and all the details were still coming in Friday morning. But what is for certain is that it was a successfully coordinated water rescue by the Evanston Fire Department and rescuers from the Northwestern Sailing Center. With the end result being no one was hospitalized and all the boaters were accounted for, ending up on dry land.

Firefighters on the front line of the Lake Michigan rescue. Battalion Chief Dan Lynch (from left), Johan Haglund, Sean Malloy and James Trippi are photographed at Fire Station 1, 1332 Emerson St., on Friday morning. Credit: Richard Cahan

The rescue crews picked up the eight after the four sailing boats they were riding on overturned in the choppy water and all were taken to the Clark Street Beach.

The RoundTable went to Fire Station 1, 1332 Emerson St., early Friday, Oct. 7, and talked to four of the Evanston firefighters involved: Battalion Chief Dan Lynch, Johan Haglund, Sean Malloy and James Trippi, The men recounted how things unfolded:

The first two victims were picked off the Dempster Street sailing beach after their boat slammed and broke apart on the Dempster breakwater.

Firefighter Andrew Arreguin, wearing a wetsuit with a floatation device, rushed to the end of the breakwater and jumped into the water to save one person. Another boater was clinging onto a buoy near the breakwater.

“It was dangerous because the rip currents start to pull you out to the water, into the lake,” said Firefighter Sean Malloy, part of the two-man jet ski unit. “He’s hanging on to the buoy. He was exhausted.”

“When we got there, there’s two victims in the water,” said Battalion Chief Dan Lynch. “That’s when that [weather] front came in. Very windy, raining. Visibility was starting to get kind of poor.” He said the lake water temperature was in the mid-60s. “Not terrible,” Lynch said. “But you can still get hypothermia from that eventually.”

Rescue efforts at the scene.

The victims were taken to the Clark Street Beach on the department’s rescue boat and jet ski unit.

Two more boaters were rescued southeast of the break wall by the fire department and two more were picked up by a Northwestern boat off the Lee Street Beach.

Two others were plucked from the water by Evanston firefighters near the Church Street boat ramp.

“We’ve been working for a number of years now,” said Firefighter James Trippi. “Yesterday was a huge example [and] a step forward.”

Richard Cahan

Richard Cahan takes photos for the Evanston RoundTable. He also is publisher of CityFiles Press, a small but mighty media company that believes in the power of words and pictures. You can reach him at...

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  1. Great job to all rescuers. People don’t realize what a dangerous body of water Lake Michigan can be. And a heads up as we head into winter, don’t venture out on what looks like frozen lake or sand; it can be misleading and not really stable at all.

  2. Outstanding work by the EFD! The acquisition of Marine 21 and the professionalism of the Water Rescue Team will benefit the citizens of Evanston and continue to save lives.

  3. With the Coast Guard station in Wilmette closed off-season, I expect more marine calls to be handled by municipalities.