Undercurrents claim boy, 15, as summer’s first lake fatality
LORAIN — The frantic search for a 15-year-old boy lost in Lake Erie after swimming with friends turned tragic hours into the second day of the search.
Shortly after 11:30 a.m. Friday, family members watched as the Lorain Police Department’s dive team pulled Christopher Pacheco’s lifeless body from the water. He was found about 50 yards from the breakwall, said Sgt. Dan Smith, dive team commander, who grew emotional as he told reporters the news.
“This is the first fatality of the year, and it never gets easy,” he said.
Pacheco had been found in the lake not far from West Second Street and Brownell Avenue. Just west of downtown Lorain, is a private beach known as Harmon’s Beach.
Pacheco was reported missing just after 8 p.m. Thursday after he went under and didn’t resurface while swimming at the beach with two 16-year-old friends.
The three boys had gone to that neighborhood to visit a
15-year-old girl, whose family has beach access. But less than 10 minutes after going into the water, one of the teens said, they were pulled from the shallow area of about four to five feet deep into water over their heads.
Smith said the teens likely encountered a lake undercurrent, a natural phenomenon that can prove deadly for inexperienced swimmers.
“Surviving really depends on how good a swimmer you are,” Smith said.
The U.S. Coast Guard, which also helped in the search Thursday night and Friday morning, told Smith the lake had 3-foot waves around the time the teen went missing.
Assistant Fire Chief Roy Cochran said about a dozen divers searched for Christopher using a grid pattern similar to what is used to look for someone lost in the woods.
“It allows us to thoroughly search one area before moving to the next,” he said.
However, the search, which stretched into a second day after divers found nothing after being in the water for four hours Thursday, may have been hampered by conflicting reports about what happened.
Police Sgt. Stan Puza said that when the call came in, early reports said the teens were swimming between the shore of Harmon’s Beach and the breakwall when Pacheco went missing. That is where the first four hours of the search were concentrated.
It wasn’t until early Friday morning did the dive team learn the kids were swept beyond the breakwall.
Puza said the other teens likely were stronger swimmers than Christopher.
“It’s sad, but three could swim and one couldn’t,” Puza said.
Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or firstname.lastname@example.org.