Officials suspend search of Lake Michigan for missing boater in Mackinac race

Officials suspend search of Lake Michigan for missing boater in Mackinac race - Muddlex

Officials suspended their search for a missing boater competing in the Chicago Yacht Club’s Race to Mackinac around sunset Saturday, hours after the man fell overboard on Saturday afternoon.

Around 2:30 p.m., authorities learned that a man in his 50s had fallen into the turbulent water, said Petty Officer Brian McCrum of the U.S. Coast Guard.

The missing man, initially believed to be 35 years old, had been wearing a self-inflating life vest, McCrum said, though it was believed the vest did not inflate.

The Chicago Yacht Club has identified the man Jon Santarelli, 53, of Lincoln Park.

“Santarelli had more than a decade of offshore racing experience, and was a core member of the Imedi Racing team as well as the greater Chicago sailing community,” race organizers said in a statement late Saturday. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and teammates.”

The Coast Guard is not planning to resume the search in the morning, McCrum said. Local marine units are expected to continue the operation, Chicago police said.

The Chicago Yacht Club, in a Saturday afternoon statement, said the Coast Guard informed it that a man had fallen from a boat competing in the race around 3 p.m.

“USCG, Chicago Police Department, and Chicago Fire Department have deployed helicopters and other assets to assist in the search,” the statement read. “Several nearby competitors suspended racing to also assist.

“At the time of the alert, the sailboat’s location was approximately five nautical miles from the (Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac) starting line, just off the Chicago Harbor breakwall.”

An hourslong, multi-agency search, which included Coast Guard and Chicago police and fire crews, followed. At sunset, rescuers suspended the operation.

At a late afternoon press availability at Navy Pier, where command staff was set up, CFD Deputy District Chief Ron Dorneker said they “immediately dispatched’’ a water rescue after getting the call of a person overboard. “We had a helicopter in the air … we had our fast boat and our big boat,’’ he said.

“Right now we are actively searching,’’ and “a number’’ of civilian boats were assisting, he said about 5 p.m.

But the conditions were “tough,’’ Dorneker said, adding winds were gusting north about 15 mph and waves were cresting about 6 feet.

Divers and rescue boats were searching between Navy Pier and 31st Street for the missing boater, Chicago Fire Department Cmdr. Frank Velez said Saturday afternoon.
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