Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

News and Events

Omahan Saves Man Who Jumped Into Lake Michigan

​This article is written by Kevin Cole, World-Herald staff writer. It was posted on on November 15, 2016.

A Boys Town staffer tapped his emergency medical training over the weekend to help rescue a man who had jumped into Lake Michigan.

David Martin and his fiancée, Eilis Smith, had been at a concert on the east end of Chicago's Navy Pier on Saturday night and were looking out at the lake. About 11:35 p.m., a man who appeared to be having hallucinations approached them.

Martin, 23, and Smith, 24, both of whom are youth care specialists at Boys Town, tried to calm him.

It was "pretty easy to see" that the 19-year-old had taken some type of hallucinogenic drug, Martin said. He appeared agitated. Martin later learned the man thought he was in the middle of a shooting incident.

"We tried to talk to him and asked him if he needed help, tried to calm him down," Martin said. "He was not in a state where he was able to take care of himself."

The couple attempted to guide the man away from the edge of the pier and back into the pier's Grand Ballroom so they could find him medical help. But the man curled up in a fetal position and began grabbing at Smith's leg.

"He just started saying things like, 'They're coming, they're coming, they're coming!'" Martin said. "He was terrified."

The man then got up and jumped "five or six feet out into the lake," Martin said. The man appeared to be treading water, and the couple began calling for him to come back to the dock.

The couple's shouts attracted the attention of Ron Romero, who had just finished working as a sound man for a band in the Grand Ballroom. Martin saw a box nearby that contained a life-preserver ring. He handed the life preserver to Romero.

Martin stripped down to his T-shirt and underwear before diving into the lake to help the man, who by then was floating facedown in the water. Romero tossed Martin the life preserver from the pier.