Evanston beaches shut down when it was believed a swimmer went missing

After several hours, the search for a missing swimmer in Evanston was called off Monday when police determined it was "unlikely" anyone disappeared in Lake Michigan.

Around 3:15 p.m., police and fire officials responded to the report of a missing swimmer at Greenwood Beach, located in the 1100 block of Lake Shore Boulevard.

"We instantly had about 20 lifeguards doing line searches and deep-water searches," said Evanston Fire Department Division Chief Matt Smith. "We had approximately 80 rescuers here at one time,"

From the air and on the ground, search and rescue crews descended on Evanston’s beaches, which were shut down during the emergency response.

According to officials, a lifeguard reported they were monitoring a person who was swimming outside the buoys. However, the lifeguard lost sight of the swimmer, and believed they’d gone under the water and didn’t resurface.

"After we had PD clear the beach, we did have unaccounted for items, we did have positive word from our lifeguarding staff and other bystanders that there was someone out there they did not see come back up to the surface of the water," said Smith.

Marine units, rescue divers, and a Chicago Police Department helicopter responded to assist in the search and rescue operation.

During the search, which lasted about three hours, Smith said those unclaimed belongings were picked up and officials determined it was "unlikely there is a missing swimmer."

"It was a very big presence all the way from South Boulevard up to the university," said Stephen Reed, who lives in Evanston.

Reed added that the quick actions of rescuers were a welcome sight.

"I think it’s really reassuring that the community responded so quickly," said Reed.

For Mohammed Jethwa, a father of three children, the false alarm serves as a reminder about the dangers of Lake Michigan.  

"We’re looking at them, what they’re doing, we don’t let them go too far, just right where we can see ‘em," said Jethwa.

Smith says those utilizing beaches this summer are encouraged to stay within the designated swim zone.

"If you’re going to be swimming outside of areas, have the proper markings, flotations, those kinds of things to be noted as more of a distance swimmer and also for increased visibility," said Smith.

He adds that if you are distance swimming, doing laps, or training, to let somebody know where you are.

Despite the time and resources utilized, Smith said Monday’s outcome was a far better one than a potential tragedy.