Chicago police rescue teen from lake on Southeast Side

By Kevin Beese Staff reporter

Six years of training as a Chicago Park District lifeguard paid off for Chicago police officer Robert McDonald as he was part of a rescue effort Tuesday evening (June 5) at Wolf Lake on the city’s Southeast Side.

McDonald and officer David Sodetz both went into the lake to rescue a 17-year-old boy who was struggling in the water at about 7 p.m.

Arriving at the scene at about the same time as Chicago Fire Department personnel, the police partners slid off their gun holsters and bulletproof vests, grabbed life vests and a CFD ring buoy and dove into the lake.

“We observed a 17-year-old male Hispanic in distress about 200 yards offshore,” McDonald told the Cook County Chronicle. “It was documented at that point that he was in danger.”

“We saw that he was still alive,” Sodetz said.

McDonald said his lifeguard training kicked in at that point and that he and Sodetz decided they were going in to rescue the victim.

Knowing the signs of a distressed swimmer from his lifeguard training, McDonald said he knew that he and Sodetz had to act quickly.

“I know a lot of the signs of distressed swimming, which made it much more pressing to get this individual out of the water,” McDonald said.

Sodetz said the whole rescue effort went really quickly, but that he and McDonald had to react when they did.

“We saw he was kind of drifting away,” Sodetz said. “… We didn’t even really think about it. We knew we had to do something quick and we went from there.”

Sodetz said when they got to the victim, he was still struggling and they tried to calm the individual down by asking him short-answer questions.

“He was still struggling, trying to stay afloat,” Sodetz said of the incident.

Once both officers had a hold of the teen, he began to calm down, Sodetz said.

Being a heavier individual, the victim was difficult to bring back to shore and the rescue effort exhausted both officers, Sodetz said.

Both Sodetz, who has been on the force a little more than three years, and McDonald, who has been a Chicago police officer for two years, said the rescue effort was their biggest moment with the department to date.

Sodetz said while swimming is allowed on the Indiana side of Wolf Lake, it is not allowed on the Illinois side of the lake.

Along with being a Chicago Park District lifeguard, McDonald was also a lifeguard at Lifetime Fitness in Burr Ridge.

When asked about his water-safety experience, Sodetz smiled and said, “I go swimming on vacation in the summer. I go snorkeling.”

Sodetz said as summer heats up, residents need to remember water safety steps, such as always being with someone else in the water and only swimming in designated areas.

McDonald said he doesn’t view his and Sodetz’s actions as anything heroic.

“At the end of the day, this is our job: to try to see that everyone stays safe,” he said.

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—- Chicago police rescue teen from lake on Southeast Side —-