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Chicago Police Department Marine Unit divers continue the search for two men missing after a vehicle crashed into the Calumet River early Sunday in the 13600 block of South Calhoun. | Chicago police

Unguarded boat launch ramp led to Calumet River drownings, lawsuit alleges

SHARE Unguarded boat launch ramp led to Calumet River drownings, lawsuit alleges
SHARE Unguarded boat launch ramp led to Calumet River drownings, lawsuit alleges

A lawsuit alleges that two men drowned in the Calumet River last month because the driver of their vehicle unknowingly went down an unlit and unguarded boat launch on the Far South Side.

The lawsuit, filed Monday in Cook County Circuit Court, alleges that the boat launch ramp at Sunset Bay Marina, 13620 S. Hoxie Ave., was negligently unlit, without a gate or fence, on Nov. 4 when the vehicle was driven off the end of 136th Street and straight down the ramp with three men on board.

The lawsuit states the ramp lacked warning signs, and that anyone driving west on 136th Street at that location could “unknowingly drive down an unguarded and unprotected boat launch ramp into the Calumet River.”

A 26-year-old man who survived the submersion was found shortly after, Chicago police said at the time. He was found “wet and confused” and treated at Trinity Hospital.

A lawsuit alleges that an unguarded boat launch ramp at an endpoint of 136th Street led to the drowning of two men in November in the Calumet River. | Google Streetview

A lawsuit alleges that an unguarded boat launch ramp at an endpoint of 136th Street led to the drowning of two men in November in the Calumet River. | Google Streetview

The police marine unit searched the river and found the vehicle unoccupied later that day, police said.

The body of the driver, Devontae Searcy, 23, was recovered in the river three days later near the boat launch, police and the Cook County medical examiner said.

The other passenger,Demetrius Hendricks, 26, was recovered on Nov. 9 near the boat launch ramp, authorities said.

Hendricks’ mother is suing Sunset May Marina for negligence.The lawsuit says that several factors, including the lack of light, gate or a sign, led Searcy to drive unknowingly down the ramp and into the river, the lawsuit states.

Hendricks is seeking more than $50,000 in damages, the lawsuit states.

The owners of Sunset Bay Marina, Bill Pacella, denied that his company owned the ramp and claimed it was owned by the city, which, he said, paved the road leading to it.

“The street is owned by the city and the ramp is owned by the city. The city paved it, so it’s theirs,” Pacella said.

He acknowledged that the ramp lacked a gate, but said it had never been a problem before.

“There’s no gate there. There are two chairs, through. We’ve never had a problem with it in the past,” Pacella said.

He said he felt sorry for the families of the men who died.

“It’s a tragedy,” Pacella said.

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