Page 41 - 01B_CL7_FEB22.indd
P. 41

 Going to Extremes
  The ability of the CPD Marine Unit to brave treacherous conditions saves a young girl in the piercing waters of Lake Michigan
The CPD Marine Unit boat swayed back and forth in the icy waves of Lake Michigan on Jan. 10. Cold wind brushed against the three Chicago Police Officers on board. They were on their way to the waters off Navy Pier, where a 15-year-old girl had fall- en into the lake.
Only a few minutes earlier, Keith Karczewski, the unit’s com- munications officer, who monitors situations like this, had re- ceived a call from a security guard at Navy Pier. She was speak- ing fast and jumbling her words.
After calming her down to understand all the information, Karczewski alerted the marine unit as to where to locate the teenager in distress. Using cameras that were located at the pier, he locked eyes on her to safely direct the officers. It was unclear whether she had jumped or fallen in, and there was some spec- ulation that it might have been an attempted suicide.
“We knew it was a dire circumstance,” explained Officer An- drew Riley about receiving the call. “We knew that it was going to be a rescue once we got there.”
As the operator in charge of their boat, Officer Kurt Kaner needed to make the critical decision to bring his team either in the dive truck along the shoreline or by boat through the icy waters. Thinking back to all his training, he chose to go by boat, even though it could be potentially life threatening the way the ice had formed in the water. Officer Riley and Officer Gretchen Chavez joined Kaner onboard; time was of the essence.
Navigating the waters of Lake Michigan and attempting to rescue victims in potential life-or-death situations is what of- ficers in the marine unit are trained to do. They go to extremes, even putting their own lives at risk, to save someone else.
“We all knew that getting there, we had to get her out of the water fast,” Kaner recounted. “That water is so cold you’re going
to lose dexterity in your arms, in your legs, you’re going to lose your grip. You’re going to go under. Most people drown rather than die of hypothermia.”
When the emergency lock leading from the Chicago River — where the marine unit boats are docked — to Lake Michigan was opened, a huge wave of icy water came flooding their way. Suddenly the boat began spinning, almost crashing into the side of the lock.
The entire time, Kaner was thinking of his training and the officers who taught him how to operate the boat.
“Here I am, 57 years old, I’m considered the old guy. I got these newer, younger people on the boat looking to me for my knowledge and my experience, and they trust me,” Kaner ex- plained. “So I’m just thinking that I’m leaving in two days, and I just hope I can save her.”
Riley ran below deck to prepare for the rescue as Kaner nav- igated the course to rescue the girl. She was beginning to lose consciousness in the freezing water. In the six minutes it took to arrive at the pier, Chavez set up blankets and the medical sup- plies that would be needed.
Arriving at the pier, Riley, who was the rescue diver, stood on the edge of the boat in his dry suit, fins and personal flotation device and jumped into the water. The cold water hit his skin like a thousand knives as he swam 30 yards to reach her. When he reached the point where the young girl was holding on to the life ring buoy that officers onshore had thrown to her, he real- ized she was unresponsive.
“She was just lying there,” Riley recounted. “She was in bad shape. She really couldn’t hang on very much to anything.”
Riley locked his arms around her cold body and swam back to the boat, where Chavez pulled her up. Chavez was relieved to

   39   40   41   42   43