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Albany Park Man Dies After Trying To Save Nephew Who Fell Off Boat In Lake

By Sam Cholke | July 3, 2017 1:52pm | Updated on July 5, 2017 9:36am
 James Hammond, 31,  was pulled from Lake Michigan in
James Hammond, 31, was pulled from Lake Michigan in "extremely critical" condition Monday afternoon and later died after jumping from his boat near 63rd Street Beach to save a child.
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DNAinfo/Sam Cholke; Provided

WOODLAWN — An Albany Park man who was boating with three children was pulled from the water in "extremely critical" condition Monday and later died after he tried to rescue one of the children who fell in the water, authorities said.

The four were in a small powerboat near 63rd Street Beach when the man's 11-year-old nephew fell in, relatives and the Chicago Fire Department said.

The man — later identified as James R. Hammond — went after him but "went under," the department said through its Twitter account.

The boy was wearing a life jacket but the man apparently wasn't, officials said.

The man was taken to University of Chicago Medicine in "extremely critical" condition, Fire Deputy District Chief Ron Dorneker said.

Hammond, 31, of the 4400 block of North Drake Street, was pronounced dead at 1:56 p.m., the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office said.

Hammond’s brother, Michael Hammond, said his nephew fell out of a swimming ring and James jumped in to help him, leaving Michael’s 7-year-old daughter and a 9-year-old friend in the boat. Michael said his brother was five feet away from the 11-year-old nephew when he was pulled underwater by the riptide.

Michael said his daughter called him from the boat when her uncle didn’t come back up.

“She was frantic, saying, ‘I can’t see uncle James,’” Michael said.

He said his brother is a hero for trying to jump in and save the nephew.

Lifeguards were able to save the 11-year-old boy, who was taken to Comer Children's Hospital and has since been released, but were unable to rescue James Hammond.

Dorneker said the man was pulled from the lake by divers from a rescue helicopter shortly after noon Monday.

Michael said his brother had been in the water for nearly a half an hour at that point.

He said when his brother went in the water he had already been out on the boat for several hours, something he did frequently.

“He’s been on that boat every day since the weather broke,” Michael said.

Michael said James didn’t have any kids of his own and would frequently come to take out his niece and nephew when he wasn’t working selling motorcycles.

Michael said his brother didn’t drink or do drugs and had been on boats for years, making the tragedy that much more unexpected and more difficult for the family to deal with.

“If you’re going to be on a boat this holiday season, be careful because tragedy can happen to anyone,” Michael said.

The 11-year-old boy was rescued by lifeguards from 63rd Street Beach.

The beach was closed after the incident.