Man drowns after jumping into Lincoln Park Lagoon to save dog

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CHICAGO — Chicago police divers recovered the body of a 29-year-old man Sunday after he jumped into the Lincoln Park Lagoon to save his dog Saturday night, family members confirm.

The lifeless body of Michael Fernandez was pulled from the lagoon Sunday afternoon, as his mother and family members watched the heartbreaking end to a 19-hour search. A limo driver and body builder, Fernandez dove in to save his one-year-old dog as it struggled to stay afloat in the lagoon Saturday night, witnesses said.

Officials say Fernandez’s girlfriend then dove into the water to try to save him. She and the dog were saved, but Fernandez was missing.

“She did try to get into the water, but because of the high weed content right here at the shore she [couldn't ] get very far in,” CFD Deputy District Chief Jason Lach said.

His girlfriend called called 911 around 6:30 p.m. Saturday, but by the time divers arrived, Fernandez had already disappeared in the murky water. The lagoon is 18 feet deep in certain spots.

“It only takes a few minutes to drown, and by the time they got out here looking for him it was already recovery,” his uncle Arthur Fernandez said.

The same dark and murky conditions made it difficult to recover the body as well. Initially, 10 CFD divers searched for Fernandez's body, but a lack of visibility led to the search ending around 8:15 p.m. Saturday.

“It was all by touch and feel. We had zero visibility – we couldn’t see our gauges in front of our faces," Lach said.

Hours after the search resumed Sunday, family members say their worst fears were confirmed when his body was recovered.

Arthur Fernandez says the city should have more safety measures around the lagoon, like fencing and live-saver flotations devices.

“There’s no safety features at all,” Arthur Fernandez said. “There’s no fences here, to keep kids and everybody from not falling into the lagoon.”

The victim’s family is hoping their own tragedy might prevent another.

“There’s nothing you can do to bring him back, that’s for sure, what you can do is help other people to say something about safety and demand safety for the public – in parks where there’s water or a lagoon like this one,” Arthur Fernandez said.

The medical examiner’s office has not yet released its report on the death, but authorities say the situation is a reminder that even young strong swimmers must always be careful around water.

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