WAUCONDA, Ill. — Geraldo Rodriguez was set to celebrate his 10th birthday alongside family and friends Saturday. Instead, divers pulled the boy’s body from Bangs Lake in suburban Wauconda.
Geraldo and a friend, 11-year-old Marquis Montez, took a paddle boat into the water Friday night.
When the boat rocked, the boys got scared and jumped in the water thinking they could swim to shore. The water was 45 degrees — cold enough for hypothermia to set in within minutes.
Fishermen were able to save Marquis, but Geraldo went under. Dive crews searched for several hours Friday night, eventually transitioning from a “rescue” to “recovery” mission by the end of the evening.
Crews found 9-year-old Geraldo’s body about noon Saturday. He would’ve turned 10 this Wednesday.
Relatives said family flew in from Florida for a party.
“We were supposed to be celebrating his birthday party today,” aunt Angi Bakewell said. “It was just an accident.”
Michael Graves was fishing with a friend when the boys went into the water Friday. People on shore began screaming and pointing in a certain direction, he said.
“We just somehow by sheer miracle saw a kid’s head sticking out of the water.”
It was Marquis. His arms and legs were not moving. Hypothermia had already set in, and he was sinking fast. Graves said the boy was babbling incoherently when the fishers pulled him out of the water.
“It wasn’t until a while later that he told us that he had a friend with him,” Graves said. “He said, ‘I tried to save my friend. I couldn’t save my friend.’ We realized he was telling us he watched his friend go under in front of him.”
Graves and his friend searched for Geraldo until paramedics arrived. The men then helped crews search the water with sonar equipment.
The experience still has Graves reeling.
“You go from feeling like you did something right to, ‘Maybe I should’ve done more.’ … I’m just happy we were able to get him [Marquis].”