Fire officials: Boy drowns in McKinley Park pool

Christopher Bowen (Family photo)

To Christopher Bowen's friends and family, the 14-year-old boy was either swimming or fishing and when he told his father Friday afternoon that he was going swimming at the McKinley Park pool no one thought twice about it.

After all, Christopher was at the pool at least three times a week and on Friday he promised his dad that he'd be back in an hour.

The boy was pronounced dead after he was pulled out of the Chicago Park District pool at 2210 W. Pershing Rd. about 2:40 p.m.

Outside of the boy's home in the 3700 block of South Rockwell Street, friends like Eduardo Gonzalez, who was with the boy at the pool, were in shock.

"He stayed under water for about a minute," after a dive in the deep end of the pool, Gonzalez said.

Wondering why he didn't surface, Gonzalez dove under the water with goggles on and poked him, but his friend failed to respond.

"I pushed him up," said Gonzalez, 17. "He was getting purple in his face."

While a lifeguard helped pull him out of the water he said he did not see any of the lifeguards perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

Gonzalez said at least eight lifeguards were at the pool and about a dozen young men had been swimming in the water.

Once the fire department arrived, they performed CPR, he said. But it was already too late.

The family is outraged at the lack of response from lifeguards.

"(There were) too many lifeguards for that to happen," said Tracy Torres, Christopher's aunt.

Family members said the boy had an awful year. When his mother died in September of a heart attack, he was the person who found her body in the garage, his aunts said.

But just this Sunday he had gone fishing with his uncles and seemed newly enthusiastic and happy, they said.

He was getting ready for his freshman year of high school in a few weeks and was proud of his new school uniform.

They said he had a bright future and was a tech wiz who was always ready to fix other people's computers and phones, family and friends said.

“The kid was smart,” said Irv Rapp, a close family friend. “He was special in a lot of ways.”

Fire officials called the boy a drowning victim although an autopsy was scheduled for Saturday.

To be hired as a Chicago Park District lifeguard, a person must have American Red Cross lifeguard certification, including certification in CPR for professional rescuers, according to job requirements for the position.

Chicago Park District officials issued the following statement: "The loss of this young life is a tragedy. The Chicago Park District is investigating the circumstances behind this incident."

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