Chesterton Tribune

Chesterton father and son drown in rescue attempt

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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 Olivia Court.

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.”


Posted 9/15/2008