An unexpected rescue in Lake Michigan reminded an off-duty Chicago police detective and a Chicago firefighter of when their friendship began 30 years ago as teammates on their high school swim team and working as lifeguards.
Detective Donovan Jackson and firefighter Rylenski Strong were jet skiing in the lake near the 6500 block of Lake Shore Drive around 8 p.m. Friday. The two were about to go in for the evening when Jackson encountered a capsized speedboat with a man sitting on top of it and three others swimming in the 60-degree water.
The victims told Jackson that a fifth person went missing when the boat capsized. Jackson called 911 and flagged Strong over. The two sprung into action.
“Once you’re a lifeguard, you’re always a lifeguard, and a cop is never off duty and neither is a firefighter. We happened to be in the right place at the right time,” Jackson said Sunday.
The two quickly found the missing fifth person surviving in an air pocket under the boat. They then shuttled everybody to the shore where emergency personnel were waiting and then went back out to bring in the victims’ boat.
Jackson said nobody was hurt in the incident, but he was worried they would get hypothermia from the cold water. Jackson said no one saw the boat capsize and the victims did not have cellphones to call for help.
“The water was very cold. I’m not sure how long they were in there, but the looks on their faces said it was getting close to hypothermia,” Jackson said.
Jackson said he had an extra life vest in his jet ski that he gave to the man sitting on top of the boat. He added that people should always have a waterproof communication device when boating and be willing to help out other boaters.
“As boaters, we have a rule that whenever you see a boater in distress you go to help them. So, of course, it could be you one day.”