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Tragedy on the final cruise of the season

NOV. 2 — Though experienced, the four crewmembers of the racing sailboat Jason were no match for the combination of high winds and rough seas they encountered the evening of Oct. 24.

The Coast Guard Chicago Marine Unit received a distress call around 8:15 p.m. that night from Jason, a 35-foot J-35 offshore racer cruiser, according to the Chicago Tribune. The crew, who had sailed together competitively before, were bringing the boat from MonroeHarbor to Crowley’s Yacht Yard to store it for the winter. Winds were reportedly 35 mph and seas were 9 feet.

They were approaching the yacht yard when one crewmember fell overboard while trying to take down the sails near a breakwall, according to the police report. After radioing for help, the remaining three crewmembers circled and tried to rescue their friend. Officials believe the fierce waves pushed the vessel into the breakwall, smashing it and throwing everyone overboard.

The Coast Guard and a tugboat arrived on the scene shortly thereafter and found the bodies of all four men against the rocks. The investigation is still under way.

Three of the men were unconscious and pronounced dead at AdvocateChristMedicalCenter in Oak Lawn. A fourth was found barely conscious, lips blue, according to the report. The Coast Guard crew kept the survivor awake as they bundled him up and got him to the hospital.

All of the men were wearing life jackets and it has not been determined yet whether they died from hypothermia or their injuries. The water was 59 degrees that evening according to the National Weather Service, and gale-force wind advisories had been issued since that Tuesday.

— Elizabeth Ellis