Two men drowned while trying to rescue a child struggling in powerful currents in Lake Michigan on Saturday. David Halford, 37, and Kyle Reibly, 26, were among a group of four that entered the water at Wells Street Beach in Gary, Ind., after the child around 2:30pm. "We were having a good time, and all of a sudden someone said there's a kid in the water," says Vernon Lesner, a friend of Halford. "We had a mission. We were like, 'Hey this kid's coming back to shore, no matter what." Lesner tells NBC Chicago that he lost consciousness. After being saved by rescuers and coming to on shore, he learned Halford, a father of three, was gone.
Fire officials say they arrived and found five people in danger. Halford and Reibly were pronounced dead, while a woman was taken to a hospital in stable condition, reports the Times of Northwest Indiana. The child and Lesner walked away from the scene. "I think he's a hero," a friend says of Halford. "He went out in a blaze of glory." It isn't clear if the group was at the beach for the Gary Air Show happening at the same time. Announcers repeatedly told visitors to avoid Lake Michigan as the National Weather Service had warned of "life-threatening waves and currents," per the Post-Tribune. A 23-year-old man also drowned Saturday on Lake Michigan, raising the tally to 20 drownings this year, per CBS Chicago. (Read more Indiana stories.)