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2 drowning victims identified amid concerns about local beach safety
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2 drowning victims identified amid concerns about local beach safety

Two Illinois residents have been identified as the victims of separate drowning incidents that occurred in the large waves off two Porter County beaches Sunday.

Moath Nagi, 21  of Rockford, Illinois, was pronounced dead Sunday after being underwater for an extended period of time off Porter Beach, according to the Porter County coroner's office.

Nagi was taken to Porter Regional Hospital and the coroner's office said it was notified at 11:57 p.m. Sunday of his death in the intensive care unit.

A 16-year-old, who disappeared Sunday off the Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk site and whose body was discovered by a diver late Monday morning, has been identified as Mohamed Obied, of Bridgeview, Illinois, according to the coroner's office.

Obied went missing in Lake Michigan at 10:47 a.m. and was among a group of five swimmers who ran into trouble in the high waves, the coroner's office said.

UPDATE: Good Samaritan tells of saving 2 teens in high waves; fire chief says crews did 'all they could' during rescue

His body was recovered at 11:12 a.m. Monday in about 7 feet of water near the break wall at the Portage lakefront, according to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

Two of the five teens rescued themselves and another two were hospitalized after Lakes of the Four Seasons resident Jeremiah Schwanke, who had been riding his Sea-Doo watercraft in the area, rescued them in the heavy surf. One of the teens was released from the hospital, while another was last reported to be in critical condition.

The incident remains under investigation.

Schwanke, who has started a GoFundMe account in hopes of replacing his damaged beyond repair Sea-Doo, told The Times he was riding in the waves when he was flagged down by beachgoers about the struggling teens in the water.

He was able to get two of the teens to shore, but could not locate the third, later identified as Obied.

High waves and rip currents affected various Indiana beaches on Sunday, creating unsafe swimming conditions for beachgoers. 

Schwanke said Monday he was upset the public was allowed to enter such rough water and that no lifeguards were on scene.

While lauded for his heroic efforts, the 34-year-old also was angry that responding rescue officials did not join him in the water as he struggled to bring the young people to shore.

A dramatic video captured by a beachgoer shows Schwanke battling waves and navigating around boulders in the water as he carried the limp body of one teen to shore while officials wearing life jackets remained on a boat and a nearby break wall.

"I just feel that more could have been done," he said.

Portage Fire Chief Tim Sosby later said his firefighters did all they could to reach Schwanke and the teen, "but the size and the strength of the waves and the rock and debris in the water made entry at that point unsafe and almost impossible without injury."

Schwanke was directed away from the rocks and toward the beach where two fire personnel and a bystander entered the water and provided assistance, Sosby said.

Seawalls being shored up to protect World's Fair houses in Beverly Shores

Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project Executive Director Dave Benjamin, who helped provide care when Nagi was brought to shore at Porter Beach, also asked: "Why are people allowed to continue to swim at these beaches when clearly Indiana Dunes State Park closed its water to swimmers because of the red flag conditions?"

Benjamin asked why the local beaches in question, which are within the jurisdiction of Indiana Dunes National Park, are allowed to operate "without lifeguards, beach signage, beach flags, rescue equipment?"

"Why are people allowed to swim when there's a report of a missing swimmer?" he asked. "Why does someone have to die before the water is cleared of swimmers?"

No one has yet responded at the Indiana Dunes National Park for comment.

Gallery: Recent arrests booked into Porter County Jail

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Porter/LaPorte County Courts and Social Justice Reporter

Bob is a 23-year veteran of The Times. He covers county government and courts in Porter County, federal courts, police news and regional issues. He also created the Vegan in the Region blog, is an Indiana University grad and lifelong region resident.

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