Tuesday, July 4, 2017

WEAR YOUR LIFE VEST WHEN BOATING TO SAVE YOUR LIFE: James Hammond, 31, drowned in a rip current in the 63rd Street Beach in Lake Michigan after he jumped into the water to try to save his 11-year-old nephew who had fallen from his boat. He was not wearing a life vest and he was obese.

James Hammond, 31

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A 31-year-old man died after he jumped into Lake Michigan Monday afternoon to try to save his 11-year-old nephew who had fallen from a boat, the Chicago Fire Department and family confirm.   He was not wearing a life vest and he was obese and he was a smoker: three strikes against him when he encountered a rip current.

Emergency crews responded around 1 p.m. to the area near 63rd Street Beach on the city's South Side, police said.

The man, identified as James Hammond, and three children -- his niece, nephew and a young family friend -- were in a boat when the 11-year-old boy fell into the water, fire officials said. Hammond jumped into the lake to help the child, but went under.

The 11-year-old boy was in a donut that flipped over.

"As my nephew started to drift away, my brother hopped and as he was swimming towards him, a rip tide pulled him down and he took in water, a lot of water in the lungs, and drowned," said the victim's brother, Michael Hammond, who is a Chicago actor.

Michael Hammond said his daughter called from the boat.

"She was saying that she couldn't see Uncle James no more, he was in the water," Hammond said. "She couldn't see Uncle James."

The boy, who was wearing a life jacket, was rescued by Chicago Park District lifeguards who rowed out to help, police said. Two children in the boat got the attention of the lifeguards by blowing whistles. They were all wearing life vests and not hurt.

"Lifeguards on the beach heard the commotion and were able to quickly row out there in a lifeguard rowboat and assist the 11-year-old who was in the water," said Ron Dorneker, deputy district chief for the fire department.

A helicopter dive team pulled Hammond out of the water. He was unresponsive and taken to the University of Chicago Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead, officials said. The child was transported to Comer Children's Hospital in good condition.

Hammond owned the small powerboat, family said. He was raised on the city's West Side but was living on the Northwest Side with his wife.

63rd Street Beach, also known as Hayes Beach, was closed Monday afternoon following the incident.


A Northwest Side man died while trying to rescue his 11-year-old nephew after the boy fell from an inner tube and began to struggle in Lake Michigan on Monday afternoon near 63rd Street Beach.

About 12:45 p.m., James Hammond was in a 15-foot motorboat with two young girls — his 7-year-old niece and a 9-year-old family friend — with the boy floating on a tube nearby, according to authorities and Hammond’s family.

When the tube flipped over and the boy fell in the water, Hammond jumped in to help him, authorities said.

The girls on the boat blew a whistle to attract attention. Lifeguards brought the boy to shore, but couldn’t find Hammond, according to police and fire officials. A helicopter crew eventually found him submerged.

Paramedics took the 31-year-old man to the University of Chicago Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead about an hour later, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.

The boy was taken to Comer Children’s Hospital in good condition, and he was released later in the evening.

The girls were unharmed. All three children were wearing life jackets, but Hammond was not, fire officials said.

The 31-year-old man lived with his wife in the Albany Park neighborhood, according to his brother, Michael Hammond, who said his daughter called him from the boat.

63rd Street Beach is cleared Monday afternoon after James Hammond died while trying to save his nephew, who fell in the water. | Mitchell Armentrout/Sun-Times

“She was frantic. She said, ‘I can’t see Uncle James any more,'” Michael Hammond said.

James Hammond had recently bought the boat and was looking forward to hitting the water for the Fourth of July weekend, his brother said. “He was such a good person. There are no words. It’s a nightmare.”

Charles Marks was tanning at the beach while visiting from Minnesota with his girlfriend, Kari Mitchell. They said they heard the young girls calling for help from the boat.

“The lifeguards just sprang into action,” Marks said. “They knew what to do. They had good training.”

Charles Marks (left) and Kari Mitchell. They said they heard the two young girls blowing a whistle on the boat to attract attention. “The lifeguards just sprang into action,” Marks said. “They knew what to do. They had good training.”

The boy was rescued within a few minutes, and it took fire crews about 15 minutes to locate James Hammond, according to Marks.


Boaters enjoy the feel of sun and spray. So it’s tempting to boat without wearing a life jacket especially on nice days. But modern life jackets are available in a wide variety of shapes, colors, and sizes. Many are thin and flexible. Some are built right into fishing vests or hunter coats. Others are inflatable as compact as a scarf or fanny pack until they hit water, when they automatically fill with air.
There’s no excuse not to wear a life jacket on the water!

How to Choose the Right Life Jacket Brochure - PDF

Things to Know:

  • Certain life jackets are designed to keep your head above water and help you remain in a position which permits proper breathing.
  • To meet U.S. Coast Guard requirements, a boat must have a U.S. Coast Guard Approved life jacket for each person aboard. Boats 16 feet and over must have at least one Type IV throwable device as well.
  • All states have regulations regarding life jacket wear by children.
  • Adult-sized life jackets will not work for children. Special life jackets are available. To work correctly, a life jacket must be worn, fit snugly, and not allow the child’s chin or ears to slip through.
  • Life jackets should be tested for wear and buoyancy at least once each year. Waterlogged, faded, or leaky jackets should be discarded.
  • Life jackets must be properly stowed.
  • A life jacket especially a snug-fitting flotation coat or deck-suit style can help you survive in cold water.

How Do Life Jackets Save Lives?

  • When capsized in rough water.
  • When sinking in unexpectedly heavy sea conditions.
  • When thrown from the boat as a result of a collision.
  • When injured by rocks or submerged objects.
  • When unconscious from carbon monoxide fumes.
  • When tossed into freezing water.
  • When thrown off balance while fishing.
  • When unable to swim because of heavy or waterlogged clothing.
Lifejackets must be
  • Coast Guard approved,
  • in good and serviceable condition, and
  • the appropriate size for the intended user.
  • Wearable lifejackets must be readily accessible.
  • You must be able to put them on in a reasonable amount of time in an emergency (vessel sinking, on fire, etc.).
  • They should not be stowed in plastic bags, in locked or closed compartments or have other gear stowed on top of them.
  • The best lifejacket is the one you will wear.
  • Though not required, a lifejacket should be worn at all times when the vessel is underway. A wearable lifejacket can save your life, but only if you wear it.
  • Throwable devices must be immediately available for use.
Inflatable Lifejackets
  • Inflatable lifejackets may be more comfortable to wear.
  • The best lifejacket is the one you will wear.
  • Inflatable lifejackets require the user to pay careful attention to the condition of the device.
  • Inflatable lifejackets must have a full cylinder and all status indicators on the inflator must be green, or the device is NOT serviceable, and does NOT satisfy the requirement to carry lifejackets.
  • Coast Guard Approved Inflatable lifejacket's are authorized for use on recreational boats by person at least 16 years of age.
Child Lifejacket Requirements

Some states require that children wear lifejackets
  • applies to children of specific ages
  • applies to certain sizes of boats
  • applies to specific boating operations
Check with your state boating safety officials.

Child lifejacket approvals are based on the child's weight. Check the "User Weight" on the label, or the approval statement that will read something like "Approved for use on recreational boats and uninspected commercial vessels not carrying passengers for hire, by persons weighing __ lbs". They can be marked "less than 30", "30 to 50", "less than 50", or "50 to 90".

Lifejacket requirements for certain boating activities under state laws

The Coast Guard recommends and many states require wearing lifejackets:
  • For water skiing and other towed activities (use a lifejacket marked for water skiing).
  • While operating personal watercraft (PWC) (use a lifejacket marked for water skiing or PWC use).
  • During white water boating activities.
  • While sailboarding (under Federal law, sailboards are not "boats").
Check with your state boating safety officials.

Federal law does not require lifejackets on racing shells, rowing sculls, racing canoes, and racing kayaks; state laws vary. Check with your state boating safety officials.

If you are boating in an area under the jurisdiction of the Army Corps of Engineers, or a federal, state, or local park authority, other rules may apply.

Lifejacket Flotation

There are three basic kinds of lifejacket flotation in the five types of lifejackets with the following characteristics:

Inherently Buoyant (primarily Foam)
  • Adult, Youth, Child, and Infant sizes
  • For swimmers & non-swimmers
  • Wearable & throwable styles
  • Some designed for water sports
Minimum Buoyancy
Wearable Size Type Inherent Buoyancy (Foam)
Adult I
22 lb.
15.5 lb.
15.5 to 22 lb.
Youth II & III
11 lb.
11 to 15.5 lb.
Child and Infant II 7 lb.
Ring Buoy
IV 20 lb.
16.5 & 32 lb.


  • The most compact
  • Sizes only for adults
  • Only recommended for swimmers
  • Wearable styles only
  • Some with the best in-water performance
Minimum Buoyancy
Wearable Size Type Inherent Buoyancy
Adult I & II
34 lb.
22.5 lb.
22.5 to 34 lb.

Hybrid (Foam & Inflation)
  • Reliable
  • Adult, Youth, and Child sizes
  • For swimmers & non-swimmers
  • Wearable styles only
  • Some designed for water sports
Minimum Buoyancy
Wearable Size Type Inherent Buoyancy Inflated Total Buoyancy
Adult II & III
10 lb
7.5 lb.
22 lb.
22 lb.
Youth II & III
9 lb
7.5 lb.
15 lb.
15 lb.
Child II 7 lb. 12 lb.