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Family of Boy Who Drowned at McKinley Park Questions Response

By Erica Demarest | August 11, 2013 3:34pm
 Christopher Bowen, 14, died Friday afternoon after he was found in the McKinley Park pool.
Christopher Bowen, 14, died Friday afternoon after he was found in the McKinley Park pool.
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Family handout/DNAinfo/Erica Demarest

BRIGHTON PARK — Two days after Christopher Bowen drowned at McKinley Park, the 14-year-old's family said they're frustrated and angry with the lack of answers.

“We’re not sure exactly what happened," grandmother Nancy Hedge, 76, said. "All we know is the lifeguards did nothing... We’re pretty upset about the people that were on duty. I don’t know if he hit his head or what.”

Bowen — whom his family described as an avid swimmer — was found unresponsive in the McKinley Park public pool, 2210 W. Pershing Road, about 2:40 p.m. Friday, police said.

The teen had spent the afternoon at the pool with friends and didn't come up after a dive, family said.

He was rushed to Mount Sinai Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 3:22 p.m. Friday, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office. Autopsy results were pending.

Witnesses told Bowen's family they noticed the teen floating near the deep end of the pool, Hedge said. When citizens and lifeguards pulled him out of the water, Bowen was bleeding in his mouth and nose.

The teen's family and several witnesses claim lifeguards never performed CPR. Police on Friday said lifeguards pulled the boy out of the water before he was taken to the hospital, but offered no more information.

"They said they couldn't [perform CPR] because he's bleeding from the nose and mouth," Hedge said. "Well, they have equipment for that."

Jessica Maxey-Faulkner, a spokeswoman for the Chicago Park District, couldn't offer any details on Sunday. The department released the following statement:

"The loss of this young life is a tragedy. The Chicago Park District is investigating the circumstances behind this incident."

Hedge said her grandson was a strong swimmer who headed to the pool "just about every day." She suspects he may have hit his head on the bottom, but when relatives tried to find answers Saturday, the pool staff was "uncooperative," she said.

Hedge described her grandson as "an average teenager" with "a beautiful head of black, curly hair." He liked video games, and "if he wasn't swimming, he was fishing" with friends or relatives.

Until recently, Bowen attended Near North Elementary School, one of the 50 schools CPS shuttered this year. Later this month, the teen would've started eighth grade at Moses Montefiore Academy, 1310 S. Ashland Ave.

“He was all enthused. We just bought his clothes for school — the new uniform," Hedge said, noting that Bowen's favorite subjects were math, science and art. "He was ready to go to school.”

Bowen's death comes less than a year after his mother died on September 10, 2012.

“She went to sleep and didn’t wake up," Hedge said. Bowen didn't handle her passing well. “He misses her — he missed her — very much.”

Bowen's relatives said they've heard more about Friday's incident from neighbors, witness and "people we don't know from Adam" than from Chicago Park District officials.

"They did nothing," Hedge said. "And yesterday, they had the pool open.”