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One Dead, Two Missing in Lake Michigan Boat Capsize

BY NBC CHICAGO

Two people were rescued from Lake Michigan and officials are searching for at least two others Sunday morning after a boat sank Saturday.

A water rescue is underway roughly 6.5 miles from 31st Street Beach as officials continue to search for at least two people in the water, who are reportedly wearing life jackets.

Coast Guard officials said rescue crews were called to the scene around 6 a.m. for a report of six people in the water. Officials said a good Samaritan boater notified them after they rescued one person from the water.

During the search effort a second person was located and taken to shore.

Both of the rescued boaters were taken in critical condition to Mercy Hospital where one of the victims was later pronounced dead, a hospital spokesperson confirmed.

Capt. Joel Reiser said he was taking a group out fishing around 6 a.m. when he spotted an object he initially thought to be a kayak floating about 6 miles from shore. As he came closer he realized the object was a person and immediately took action.

"The instincts come in," he said. "Turned the boat around, spun him and threw him a life ring, got him aboard, got him warm, called the Coast Guard, gave the coordinates and brought him [to shore]."

The man reportedly told authorities that the boat he was on capsized, possibly after catching fire, around 7 p.m. Saturday with several other passengers aboard.

Officials said the man was hypothermic after being in the water for at least 12 hours, and some of the details surrounding the incident were unclear. The man was wearing a floating device.

According to Coast Guard officials, the incident occurred as the boat was returning from New Buffalo, Michigan to Burnham Harbor in Chicago.

Rescue crews were initially searching for four others in the water, but one of the rescued victims told authorities that two people had been dropped off before the boat capsized, according to Fire Media Affairs Director Larry Langford.

A boat fender was located in the water but whether the fender belonged to the boat that capsized is unclear, according to authorities.

The water temperature Sunday morning was reported to be less than 60 degrees, according to Deputy District Chief Ron Dorneker with the Chicago Fire Department.

The Chicago Fire Department, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Chicago Police Department's Marine Unit and several aircraft and rescue boats are involved in the search.