Terrence Tontlewicz and Son Jimmy Tontlewicz, Who Nearly Drowned, Rescued from Lake Michigan


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JAN 18 1984 — Jimmy Tontlewicz, snow sledding near Lake Michigan and Lawrence Wilson Drive [MAP/SAT], went down to the ice cover on Lake Michigan to retrieve a runaway sled with his father Terrence N. Tontlewicz. When Jimmy jumped onto the ice, the ice broke and both fell into the icy cold waters.  Jimmy submerged and Terrence managed to stay afloat.

Rescuers (among many) WGN cameraman Robert Whitmore grabbed a heavy, 50-foot-long extension cord from the sound truck and heaved one end to Terrence, who was pulled to safety. Later Chicago Fire Department Air-Sea Rescue Unit diver Peter Tomaszkiewicz rescued Jimmy from beneath the water surface.

Dramatic news video showed Jimmy’s adolescent lifeless body lifted out of the icy Lake Michigan waters — after being underwater for about 20 minutes — and rushed to an awaiting ambulance.

Jimmy’s body temperature reached as low as 80 degrees and his heart and breathing stopped several times. His heart was restarted with a defibrillator and his body was rewarmed slowly while he was placed in a drug-induced coma to lessen the chance of a hasty return to normal metabolism and the associated possibility of brain damage. The icy temperatures that slowed his metabolism saved him from actually drowning.

About 10 days after the incident he came out of his coma and began months of physical therapy and speech therapy.