A young lawyer whose career brought her to Chicago was revealed Monday as the first victim of a weekend boating accident in Lake Michigan that led to a massive air-and-water rescue effort.
But that search appeared to stall Monday — police said they were looking but the U.S. Coast Guard said it had suspended its efforts — even as authorities said two people were still missing after their 33-foot cabin cruiser capsized Saturday night while returning to the city from New Buffalo, Mich.
Ashley Haws, 26, was pronounced dead about 10 a.m. Sunday after rescue crews pulled her and a 29-year-old man from the lake, officials said. Her mother, Sharon Rae Haws, told the Chicago Sun-Times her daughter grew up in Green Bay, Wisconsin, loved soccer and dreamed of practicing law.
She realized that dream after graduating from Valparaiso University Law School in Indiana in 2012 and moving to Chicago, where she found a job practicing family law at the Davi Law Group.
“She loved the big city,” Sharon Rae Haws said.
Dion Davi, the founding attorney of the firm where Haws worked, described Haws as a “brilliant rising star in the legal community.”
“She was loved by all that met her,” Davi said. “The law profession and the world have lost someone that was destined to do great things.”
Meanwhile, one man remained at Mercy Hospital & Medical Center after being pulled from the lake. Two more were still missing. Their family members either declined to comment or couldn’t be reached.
An autopsy Monday showed Haws, of the 2300 block of Geneva Terrace in Chicago, died of hypothermia, and her death was ruled an accident, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.
U.S. Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Brian Dykens said crews searched 1,600 square miles of Lake Michigan Sunday for what amounted to a combined 43 man-hours. The Coast Guard and Chicago’s police and fire departments put a combined 10 boats in the water and three helicopters in the air. The Coast Guard also flew in a C-130 from Canada to help with the search.
Rescue efforts began with Tarek Alaruri, who ventured out on the lake to enjoy his 24th birthday fishing for salmon with his girlfriend and two buddies. But before Alaruri and the rest of the passengers had set their poles near the 31st Street Harbor — about 6 miles from shore — they saw something floating.
“My buddy . . . was on the left side of the boat,” Alaruri recalled Monday. “He was like, ‘Oh man, it’s a guy!’ We saw the gentleman. He was surrounded by all these life jackets.”
Those aboard the chartered fishing boat helped pull him out of the water.
It turned out to be the 29-year-old man, one of Haws’ apparent companions on the boating trip from Burnham Harbor to New Buffalo and back that might have included as many as six people. Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford said the man pulled from the waters told authorities two people were dropped off at one point.
But only four people — two men and two women — are believed to have been on the boat when things went awry. That’s when the engine began to smoke and caught fire, according to police. Dykens said an alarm panel on the boat “started going off” and the engine shut down.
Power was lost, and the radio and bilge pump both failed, police said. All four put on life jackets but got separated in the darkness as the ship capsized.
Mark Stevens, commanding officer of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Calumet Harbor station, said no distress calls or flares were reported.
When Alaruri and his buddies came upon the man in the water, Alaruri said he initially thought the man was dead.
“And then he ended up responding and talking, and we pulled him into the boat,” Alaruri said.
The man was “totally delirious” and could barely stand, Alaruri said.
“He was more in shock,” Alaruri said. “He was just describing how he was in the water for so long.”
The man later told authorities the boat capsized about 7 p.m. Saturday — meaning he had been in the water about 12 hours, according to the Chicago Fire Department.
But the man “was a little confused” due to hypothermia, fire officials said, and gave differing versions of events.
About two hours later, searchers found Haws.
Contributing: LeeAnn Shelton