Tinley Park teen remembered as ‘shining star’
BY DONNA VICKROY firstname.lastname@example.org July 28, 2013 10:32AM
Updated: August 30, 2013 6:54AM
Matt Kocher was an honor student who excelled in sports and loved helping others.
The 15-year-old played football, basketball and volleyball during his freshman year at Andrew High School in Tinley Park. For the past 10 years, he was a volunteer with Special Olympics at Richards High School in Oak Lawn. Last year, he participated in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life.
“He was a shining star, with unlimited potential,” said his father, John Kocher, a guidance counselor at Richards. “Matt was really special, just ask anyone — his teachers, our neighbors, his family.”
The Tinley Park teen died Saturday, an apparent drowning victim, after he was pulled from Lake Michigan near New Buffalo City Beach in New Buffalo, Mich.
According to New Buffalo police, multiple lifeguards entered the water about 3:30 p.m. to assist a swimmer in distress. CPR was started immediately. Matt was transported to Saint Anthony Hospital in Michigan City, Ind., and later airlifted to the University of Chicago Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 8:21 p.m., according to reports.
Police say the Coast Guard station in Michigan City had reported wave heights of 3 to 5 feet. Rip current and small watercraft advisories were in effect at the time. Red flags, indicating high risk, were on display the entire day, police say.
At the family’s Tinley Park home Sunday, family and friends grieved for the boy who was always good-natured, forgiving and easygoing.
Prairie View Middle School teachers who signed his eighth-grade yearbook noted that he would go on to do great things, John Kocher said.
Kathleen Kocher, his mom, recalled how her son, who went above and beyond in completing community service hour requirements, was humbled after being awarded the Christian Leadership Award from St. Elizabeth Seton Church last year.
“He kept saying, ‘I don’t deserve this,’ ” she said. “He was so sweet.”
Arrangements are pending.
It was the second reported drowning of the weekend in Lake Michigan. An Indiana also man died Saturday after he was pulled from the lake on Saturday night along the shores of the Indiana Dunes.
Gonzola Silva, 37, of Lafayette, Ind., was seen struggling in 3- to 5-foot waves at Lake View Beach at the Indiana Dunes in Beverly Shores, Ind., about 5:30 p.m., authorities said.
His body later was found floating about 10 feet from shore, according to the National Park Service. He was under water about 20 minutes before he was pulled to shore. Silva died later Saturday night.
The National Weather Service issued a hazardous beach advisory which extends through Monday morning, with waves expected to range from 4 to 5 feet.