A Chesterton father and son died as heroes on Sunday after drowning in an
attempt to save a boy who had fallen into a raging drainage ditch in the
Westchester South subdivision.
Indiana Conservation Officer Aaron Mullet identified the victims as John
Thanos, 74, and Mark Thanos, 48.
At approximately 10:45 a.m., Mullet said, three young boys were playing in
the water near a drainage ditch on Olivia Court when one of them, a
10-year-old, fell into the ditch. The boy, yelling for help, was swept away
by the strong current and sucked into and through a 36-inch culvert beneath
John and Mark Thanos answered the call and entered the water themselves. They
too were pulled through the culvert and under the road, where they drowned.
The boy succeeded in crawling from the water and onto dry land.
Divers from the Chesterton, Porter, and Burns Harbor fire departments
immediately responded to the scene to conduct a search-and-rescue operation,
while a CFD firefighter established a grab line on the bridge over the Pope
O’Conner Ditch on South Calumet Road in the event of the two men’s making it
that far east.
Instead, PFD and BHFD recovered the bodies of John and Mark Thanos in some
underbrush on the far side of the culvert.
The boy was transported to Porter hospital, Mullet said, and it was not
immediately known if he sustained injuries in the incident.
Mullet specifically commented on John and Mark Thanos’ heroism. “This was
definitely a courageous act to try and save a young person’s life,” he said.
CFD Engineer John Jarka told the Chesterton Tribune on Sunday that he and his
crew spent a good deal of time during the day chasing kids out of flood
waters. Porter Fire Chief Lewis Craig said the same.
Jarka also noted that the force of the water, as it narrowed from the ditch
into the 36-inch culvert, would have been terrific. “The boy must have been
able to hold his breath,” he said. “I don’t know how.”
Chesterton Street Commissioner John Schnadenberg, who was at the scene, spoke
highly of the divers. “When you saw them in action, it’s just unbelievable
they way they went into that water. The pressure was so great, there was a
vortex as the water shot through the culvert.”