BEVERLY SHORES | What was normally a scene of tranquility was the setting for tragedy Monday afternoon as crews searched Beverly Shores waters and shores for a lost man.
Leonel Dominguez, 31, from the Bronx borough of New York City, went missing about 3 p.m. after his raft capsized a quarter mile offshore just east of Shore Road on Lake Front Drive. Bruce Rowe, a spokesman for the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, said the watercraft capsized about a half mile east of the Lakeview picnic area.
Kenneth Mehne, law enforcement specialist with the National Park Service, said Dominguez and his companion, Evelyn Hernandez, had been using the inflatable watercraft — a boat with paddles — that Dominguez bought Sunday for $20 in Chesterton.
“They paddled out and Ms. Hernandez was uncomfortable with how far they were drifting, so he got out, swam the craft back to the shore, and they rested. They went back out a second time, got too far again and Ms. Hernandez again felt uncomfortable,” Mehne said.
Dominguez then left the craft to swim but became exhausted, Mehne said.
“He grew tired, attempted to get back into the boat and when he did, the wind caught it and flipped both into the water. They attempted to swim back to shore, but they got so exhausted that at one point Ms. Hernandez said she knew she was going to die, that she would drown,” he said.
Hernandez then began screaming for help and a good Samaritan with the same last name as the missing man, but unrelated, came to the rescue, Mehne said.
“A young Marine by the name of Nick Dominguez from Lockport, Ill., heard her screaming and got her to a sandbar. When he went back for Leonel, he didn’t see him anymore,” Mehne said.
A contractor working on a nearby house heard Hernandez’s cries for help and called 911. Emergency crews from the DNR, National Park Service, Coast Guard, Chesterton, Porter, Burns Harbor, Portage, Beverly Shores, Ogden Dunes, Washington Township and Porter hospital responded.
Crews conducted a grid search of the shores, and dive teams scoped the waters. Helicopters were unable to see because of turbulence in the 3- to 5-foot waves, and boats continued to search shores until nightfall. ATVs will continue to patrol the shore through the night, and emergency crews will return first thing Tuesday.
Mehne said 35 mph winds were a contributing factor in the disappearance.