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UPDATE: Coroner identifies 12-year-old drowning victim
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UPDATE: Coroner identifies 12-year-old drowning victim

GARY — Dive teams and marine units recovered from Lake Michigan the dead body of a boy who went missing at Marquette Beach Thursday afternoon.  

The drowning victim was identified by the Lake County coroner as Jerail C. Lee Jr., 12, from Chicago Heights, Illinois. He was declared dead at the scene, said Indiana Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officer Tyler Brock.  

Lee was found at 6:24 p.m. and the rescue search was concluded, said Gary Police Department Lt. Dawn Westerfield.

The child was with family members as they waded in chest-deep water before the group unexpectedly stepped into deeper water, Brock said. As the family struggled in the water, a relative noticed the boy had not resurfaced. 

Lifeguards immediately began searching for the child and other emergency personnel were called to the scene. 

A member of the Portage Fire Department was searching on a watercraft when he saw Lee below the water's surface and a Porter firefighter pulled him from the lake, Brock said. The child was then brought to shore, where he was declared deceased. 

There were no swim advisories issued Wednesday and the water was smooth with minimal waves, Brock said. 

A report of a missing boy at the beach came in just after 5 p.m., said Gary Police Cmdr. Jack Hamady. He was last seen in the water and multiple dive teams were called to the scene. 

The Lake County Sheriff's Aviation Unit searched the area along with marine units and divers across the Region. 

The Indiana DNR, Gary police, National Park rangers and the U.S. Coast Guard convened at the scene. Firefighters from Gary, Hobart, Crown Point, Lakes of the Four Seasons, Merrillville, Burns Harbor, Chesterton, Porter and Portage also responded, Brock said. 

Gary police, DNR officers and the Lake County coroner's office are conducting an investigation into the incident.

Lee's drowning was the 16th in Lake Michigan this year, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.

“Once again Great Lakes drownings are on a record pace when compared to previous years,” said Dave Benjamin, GLSRP Executive Director. “At this pace, we will likely have 100 Great Lakes Drownings in 2020.”

While there were no swim advisories in effect Thursday, the National Weather Service has issued a beach hazard warning for Friday, effective from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

"If the current Lake Michigan wind forecast for Friday night to Saturday morning and for all day Sunday holds true, Lake Michigan will have high and turbulent surf, especially for the south end of the Lake," Benjamin said. "Northerly winds over 20 mph for more than 9 hours will have the whole lake moving."

Recent arrests booked into Lake County Jail 

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Night Crime/Breaking News Reporter

Anna Ortiz is the breaking news/crime reporter for The Times, covering crime, politics, courts and investigative news. She is a graduate of Ball State University with a major in journalism and minor in anthropology. 219-933-4194, anna.ortiz@nwi.com

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