31ST STREET BEACH — A veteran Chicago firefighter died Sunday morning after he drowned in Lake Michigan while he was off-duty, authorities said.
Engineer/EMT Wilbert Hayes died around 9 a.m. Sunday at the 31st Street Beach, fire officials said. He was swimming with his family when the incident occurred, officials said.
The Cook County medical examiner’s office confirmed Hayes drowned in an accident.
Hayes joined the Fire Department in April 1980, officials said.
“The City of Chicago mourns the loss of Chicago Fire Department Engineer Wilbert Hayes of Engine 16,” Mayor Brandon Johnson said in a statement. “We are eternally grateful for his bravery and service, and my deepest sympathies go out to his family, loved ones, and colleagues. Let us keep Engine 16 and all of our city’s first responders in our prayers.”
It’s the latest loss for the Fire Department and Chicago first responders.
Firefighters Jan Tchoryk and Jermaine Pelt were killed in consecutive days in April, responding to fires in Gold Coast and West Pullman. Officials said the back-to-back losses were “unprecedented” in Chicago.
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