Family and friends of Martin Regan’s were devastated today when they heard of the Orland Hills man’s drowning death the day before in Indiana.
Authorities said Regan, 35, a popular teacher and coach in south suburban Palos Park, apparently drowned in James Lake near North Webster, Ind. His family said he was on an annual boating trip with other teachers from his school.
“They were floating around, and he just went missing and that was it, he was gone,” said Regan’s father-in-law, Terry Dolan, who was at the couple’s home Friday afternoon.
He said the family is waiting for more details from the sheriff’s department about what happened in the town, located between South Bend and Fort Wayne.
According to the Kosciusko County Sheriff's Department, Regan and five of his friends were on a pontoon boat on Lake James when some of them, including Regan, jumped into the water.
One witness told police he first thought Regan was "messing around" when he disappeared beneath the boat. His friends yelled for him and drove the boat around. But when they couldn't find him, they went to another boat to call 911.
The sheriff's department was the first to arrive at 2:57 p.m. Thursday. Nine agencies from Indiana were involved in the search, and the body was recovered at 6:50 p.m. approximately 46 feet on the bottom of the lake, said sheriff’s police spokesman Chad Hill.
Regan and his wife, Kelly, married about three years ago and recently had a daughter, said Dolan, 61, of Naperville. Both were teachers at Palos South Middle School.
Regan, a physical education teacher and track and soccer coach, had worked at the school for eight years, said Joe Dubec, District 118 Superintendent. Kelly Regan is a Spanish teacher at the school.
"This is a tragedy for all of us," said Dubec. "He was very well-known and very well-liked by the students and parents. It's a sad day for us."
Dubec said there will be grief counselors available for the staff and students next week as well as a parent meeting.
Regan, a graduate of Carl Sandburg High School, was on the Orland Park school’s soccer team in 1993 when the Eagles won their first Illinois High School Association title. According to Regan’s page on the Palos South website, he received a bachelor's degree in sociology from Bradley and an education degree from Trinity Christian College. He also played soccer at Bradley University from 1994-1997.
“I followed his path,” said Regan’s younger brother, Tim, who also played soccer at Sandburg and Bradley. An All-American, Tim Regan went on to play professional soccer with the New York/New Jersey Metro stars and Chivas USA.
“I watched him closely from the sideline. He did nothing but support me. For whatever reason I ended up a pro and he was a school teacher, and he was always happy for my success,” said Tim Regan, now a scout for the United States Soccer Federation.
“I’m sick to my stomach,” said Brian Papa, Regan’s soccer coach at Carl Sandburg High School in 1993. “What a lousy day.”
Papa now coaches at Lincoln-Way East, where Martin Regan was a volunteer coach for three years.
“He had great insight and the kids love him,” Papa said. “I guarantee that anyone who had him as a coach probably feels the same way I do. He’s going to be sorely missed.”
Tribune reporter Ashley M. Rueff contributed.