Orland Park man found in Lake Michigan mourned
BY STEVE METSCH firstname.lastname@example.org July 5, 2011 11:10AM
A Police boat returns after emergency crews found the body of a 29-year-old man who fell out of a boat in Lake Michigan near Navy Pier last night. The victim was recovered, Tuesday, July 5 , 2011. | John H. White~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 31, 2011 10:03AM
On a YouTube channel where he posted videos of himself singing and playing the guitar, Christopher Szmajlo made it known just how much he loved music.
He described his occupation as “Singer/Songwriter ... does nerd count?” and said he was “just looking to create beautiful music and looking for opportunities to achieve something special. Music 24/7.”
Family and friends gathered at his Orland Park home Tuesday, mourning the shocking death of the 29-year-old man.
Family members identified Szmajlo as the man whose body was recovered from Lake Michigan near Navy Pier just after 9 a.m. Authorities had started a search for him Monday night after it was reported he fell off a boat near Navy Pier after a fireworks show.
The driveway of Szmajlo’s home and the street in front of it in the 8000 block of Pickens Drive were filled with vehicles Tuesday. A man who identified himself as an uncle said Szmajlo “was a good kid, a real good kid,” but family members otherwise declined to comment when a reporter twice visited the home.
Szmajlo had been on a sailboat Monday night, and as the boat approached the shore, someone took a head count and noticed he was missing, a source said Tuesday morning. People on deck thought he may have been below deck, and the people below deck thought he was above, the source said.
There were conflicting reports as to how long it was before the others on the sailboat realized Szmajlo was missing, the source said. It was unknown whether he was last seen five, 15 or 30 minutes before the others on the boat noticed he was missing.
“Somewhere along the ride, he apparently fell in,” the source said.
The people on the boat then notified authorities and a search was initiated.
Crews responded about 10:15 p.m., police said. Navy Pier had a Fourth of July fireworks show that started about 9:30 p.m.
It was not known where Szmajlo fell into the water or whether he had been wearing a life vest, the source said.
Police said divers searched the lake about a half-mile from shore. The search was temporarily suspended at 2:30 a.m. Tuesday, police said, and the Chicago Police Marine Unit resumed the search at 7 a.m.
The cause of death is under investigation by the Cook County medical examiner, officials said.
Szmajlo’s interests included writing, singing, playing guitar, reading, movies and working out, according to his YouTube profile. He was interested in acoustic music and was influenced by “everything! from rock to folk and blues to club songs lol ... i love alllll music!!” his profile said.
Contributing: Sun-Times Media