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Off-duty Chicago firefighter dies while swimming

Engineer/EMT Wilbert Hayes went under while swimming with his family in Lake Michigan


Chicago Fire Department members salute as a procession brings the body of a firefighter to the Cook County Medical Examiner s Office.

Brian Cassella

By Rebecca Johnson, Adriana Pérez
Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO — An off-duty Chicago firefighter died Sunday morning while swimming in Lake Michigan at 31st Street Beach, according to the Chicago Fire Department.

Fire Commissioner Annette Nance-Holt said the firefighter was swimming with his family off the lakefront when he went underwater about 7:30 a.m. Crews quickly located the man and pulled him out of the water before performing advanced life support.

He was transported to University of Chicago Medical Center and pronounced dead at 9:07 a.m., according to the Fire Department and the Cook County medical examiner’s office. The Fire Department identified the firefighter as Engineer EMT Wilbert Hayes, 43. Nance-Holt said he’s been on the job since 2009.

“The loss of any of our members is a loss for the first responder community and the city as a whole,” Nance-Holt said.

She added that while the incident happened while the firefighter was off-duty, the Fire Department is conducting “a full investigation to determine the status of this tragic loss.”

Firefighters, police officers and paramedics led a procession Sunday afternoon to pay tribute to Hayes while his body was transported to the medical examiner’s office.

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