UPDATED: 14-Year-Old Boy Drowns Near Gillson Park

Evanston boy dies in Lake Michigan while swimming in an unpatrolled area

This article has been updated as of 10:36 a.m. on Aug. 28.

An unidentified 14-year-old Evanston boy drowned Saturday afternoon near in Lake Michigan, according to Wilmette Police Chief Brian King.

The teen "had been swimming off of the pier with several friends when a wave pulled him under and he did not resurface," according to a statement released late Saturday. Almost two hours after being called to the scene, officials found the boy "200 yards south of where he was last seen" and transported him to an Evanston Hospital. The teen was soon pronounced dead. His identity is being withheld and will be released after extended family have been notified, according to police.

According to King, the boy and his friends were swimming in a no-swim part of the lake. The area is owned by the Wilmette Park District, who previously told Patch that while it isn't guarded, there are several signs that indicate swimming restrictions.


The Wilmette Police and Fire Department were joined by officials from several neighboring communities as well as the in the search for the boy near the South Beach area of Gillson Park. Whether he was swimming alone or with a companion was not immediately clear.

According to the Fire Department report, strong northeast winds were in the area in addition to a heavy surf. A Rip Current warning had been issued by the National Weather Service earlier in the afternoon. Just a few days ago, and rough conditions in the lake.

This was the second incident this month to occur at Gillson Park as the Chicago Tribune reported that an .

Stay tuned to Patch for more on the story.

Sue Pearson Sklansky August 28, 2011 at 01:00 PM
This saddens our community greatly. I hope it forces the Park District to address this issue at the lake front. I know many other 14 year old boys and others who use this stretch of beach all summer, not paying the beach fee, and are not monitored by life guards while they swim and jump from the rocks. Despite the signs they know there are no consequences for using this beach. They were not told of the riptide issue yesterday. I want my children kept safe while they use the beach, and this should not have happened. It could have been my son.
Kate Monte August 28, 2011 at 01:36 PM
Parents- show this to your kids! Even strong swimmers can drown in rip currents! Look up what to do in the event you are caught in one- that knowledge could save your life. This is so sad- we need to know where and what our kids are doing and teach them to obey rules. Because there is no way we can expect others to always be there to monitor them.
John August 28, 2011 at 05:10 PM
This is very sad news. As a former lifeguard on the swimming beach as well as a guard on this beach unfortunately you can't protect people from themselves. This part of the beach has ALWAYS been closed for swimming as the posted signs say. The Park District and Wilmette Police do a tremendous job in keeping this area safe.
Steve Fuchs August 28, 2011 at 05:12 PM
I'm a 39 yr old surfer with a family of 4 kids (15, 13, 6, and 4). We relocated to Wilmette from Los Angeles last summer. I've been surfing for 26 years and have found some excellent waves here on Lake Michigan, including last night and today up at Lloyd Park in Winnetka. I'm a highly experienced waterman and consider myself an authority on beach safety, surf rescue, and wave conditions. Last night was an unpredicted swell from the NNE that started showing late morning and built all day into the evening around 10 PM and is now slowly subsiding. Let's be clear about something... Lake Michigan is not dangerous, if you are prepared to handle the conditions. MANY of us dream of huge waves, wind, and less than perfect conditions that the general public is not prepared to handle. Yesterday's swell was not much more than shoulder high which probably happens in the general Lake Michigan area 50 or more times per year. In Wilmette and the Westside of Lake Michigan, waves higher than waist to shoulder high do happen less frequently, due to the more prominent flow of the jet stream (wind blowing out of the West). With all that said, what Great Lakes communities need are beach safety classes. A fellow surfer has been helping coordinate educational resources related to these matters, and I encourage each of you to get involved. Learning to swim in a pool is MUCH different than learning lake and ocean personal safety. All of us need to know our limits. http://david-benjamin.blogspot.com
Mrs. H August 28, 2011 at 10:08 PM
My heart goes out to this boy's family and his friends. I can only imagine their sorrow.
David Kreiman August 28, 2011 at 10:48 PM
Very sad
Ann August 29, 2011 at 12:20 AM
I would like to extend my sympathy to the family of Tristan. Tomorrow, Monday would have been an exciting day for them, and him, as he started as a freshman at ETHS. Lake Michigan CAN be dangerous. There are many riptides/cross currents in the lake along the shore. (One area is off the breakfront at Lighthouse Beach) The boys were swimming in an area that was closed to swimmers. One article I read, states, the boys had been swimming there all summer and maybe on the days they were swimming the lake was calm. Yesterday the waves were choppy, with a lot of whitecaps in the am. When the wind changes, the lake can become rough in seconds. I agree it would be helpful if there were more classes regarding safety on the lake. But at the same time, lets learn something from this tragedy. Don't swim in the lake unless there is a lifeguard present.
Steve Fuchs August 29, 2011 at 01:17 AM
My deepest sympathies do go out to the family, too. Boys at this age, and I have one, do start sewing their oats in groups... thinking they can do no wrong. Personally, I think parents should take it upon themselves to understand what their children are doing at all times, though that's not always possible. What I'd hate to happen is this false aura about the lake take on a communal hysteria. Yes, there are some side currents and rip currents at times. Yes, it would be a good thing to have a beach patrol on ATVs in these less guarded areas. Yes, we all should make sure we know our limits and put ourselves in check when conditions change. Yes, our children need to be taught more than how to tread water for a minute and swim laps, if they want to engage in less than ideal lake conditions. NO, we should not close specific lake areas to everyone, if a lifeguard is not present. I'm not sure if Chicago / suburbs have "Junior LIfeguarding"--it would be a good start. One thing that makes patrolling the beaches here difficult, compared to California and most other ocean beaches, is the notion of private property up to the waterline. There's always going to be pockets that are not guarded. Is there a phone number our community can call when we feel swimmers are in potential danger? I'm not sure they'd listen to an average citizen. And to that end, our community service personnel need water safety education, too... I'm afraid one man's paradise will become everyone's safety precaution.
George August 29, 2011 at 01:35 AM
I have to post this reply in regards to the comment left by Steve " Let's be clear about something... Lake Michigan is not dangerous,". Many people on the North Shore are not from Los Angeles nor are they surfers. I have seen people surfing down at Lloyd and Tower. That is their thing, they know what they are doing and rarely is there an incident. Lake Michigan IS dangerous for the people who are unaware of the conditions. A safety class is a good idea but it would be futile as there isn't a market for surfing around here. Even if you tried to start a surfing program the weather and waves are too unpredictable. This tragedy happened while the beach was still open. There should have been park staff members monitoring the beach until the beach closed at 8pm. I can't count the times that I saw kids jumping off of the north pier this summer, let alone the kids jumping off of the harbor pier into potential boat traffic....all of this during the day when the beach is fully staffed. There are many signs posted throughout the park stating "no swimming or wading", maybe they will be enforced now. My condolences go out to the family of Tristan, may this never happen again.
Steve Fuchs August 29, 2011 at 02:53 AM
Please don't take my comment out of context. I'll repeat it and stand by it again. "Let's be clear about something... Lake Michigan is not dangerous, IF you are prepared to handle the conditions." And again, not looking to make this a major nit-pick session or somehow be framed as an elitist. I have a son and daughter near Tristan's age. I'd rather bring a full awareness to this community and prevent hysteria among the uneducated or inexperienced. I talked to at least 20 people about this subject today around our community and many, if not most, are "locals." Naivete about the lake was abound. I'm not advocating surf lessons. I'm advocating a water safety class that teaches participants how to recognize the danger of the surf environment; understand rip currents (i.e. how, where, and why rip currents occur); how to survive rips; to know the “Signs of Drowning”; and how to use a surfboard or other flotation device to rescue a person in distress or in a rip current. More specifically, I think junior high and high school students would GREATLY benefit from this, including our community at large that frequent beaches.
victoria smith August 29, 2011 at 12:40 PM
Steve, you make allot of good points,but I think your class would be more beificial if it was intergrated into a class, such as health in our schools. Not every child or parent would attend an outside class such as yours. Lake Michigan is very unpredictable especially our under currents. I am sure that there are only a handful of you that surf Michigan in our area and who knows maybe it will catch on and become more popular, but I can't think that our Lake is really the ideal place to surf. The question at hand is to educate our community about Lake Michigan and all of it's conditons and how to handle them for swimmers and boaters. I think that the Evanston Fire department could give a very good insite to all of this. Non the less, this was a terrible incident and maybe could have been avoided had Tristan known what to do under his situation, but then again kids will be kids and they all think that "it can't happen to me".
Fdphotounit August 29, 2011 at 11:42 PM
Hello All, I Have been a Fire Department Photo Unit for Almost 30 Years. I Was Here that Day it Was Very Sad Day for All The Divers From The Fire Departments. They all Worked very Hard To Find Tristan that Day. Here is something You All Don't Know An Evanston Fire Fighter Is Going To Be Off For the Next 3 months Because He Was Out Trying His Best in Those High waves To Try And Find Tristan When The Wave Runner Hit A High Wave And His Face Slammed Into The Board He was Riding On Breaking His Nose And also His Face Bone And Several Cuts. I Have Been On Several Dive Call And Really Don't Want to go On Anymore. Let me know If There Is Something Someone wants To Do To get the Word Out About water safety I Got Plenty of Pictures To get The Point Out There There are To Many Young People Dying In Our Lakes . Thanks For Your Time on This It looks like There Are People that Care out There.
George August 30, 2011 at 01:55 AM
Here's a logical solution. The beach is closing this weekend which means there will be no staff in the park. The water is still in the mid 70's which is going to lead to many more "unsupervised" swimmers / jumpers around the pier. The dog beach is full of residents who have a great view of the pier. Let's post a sign asking the dog beach patrons (or anyone else around) to call the police if they witness kids jumping off of the pier? Kind of makes sense in my mind. There could also be a fine issued to the jumpers which would more than likely have to be paid by their parents. I think you see where I am going here. Parents who have to pay $75 for their kids jumping off of the pier are going to think twice the next time their kids say they are "going to the beach" to hang out.
Andrea Hart August 30, 2011 at 04:00 PM
Thanks for the comment. I am working on a follow up on water safety. Could you share your photos with me at? Would you also be available for an interview? Please email me at andrea.hart@patch.com.


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