Updated: May 29, 2012 2:12AM
Life jackets might have saved two 14-year-old girls when they were thrown from a water scooter and spent more than an hour floating in Lake Michigan Monday near Winnetka, officials said.
The girls were on the water scooter about four miles northwest of Lloyd Park Beach when they took a sharp turn and were thrown overboard, U.S. Coast Guard Command Duty Officer Charles Wolfson said.
The scooter’s kill switch worked properly and cut the engine as soon as they were thrown off, but the ski drifted away from them, leaving them stranded in Lake Michigan, Wolfson said.
Family members called for help, and the Coast Guard launched a helicopter from Waukegan and a rescue boat from Wilmette Harbor. Local emergency crews in communities along the lake from Highland Park to Evanston also sent rescuers after the girls, Wolfson said.
The rescue helicopter’s first sweep found only the water scooter, but an additional search found the girls floating and conscious about 5:30 p.m., still wearing their life jackets. They later told rescuers they spent more than an hour in the water before help arrived, Wolfson said.
“The one thing we’re happy about is that they were wearing life jackets. It saved their lives,” Wolfson said. “It’s still cold water right now, and always wear your life jacket.”
Both girls were wearing only swimsuits and were suffering from hypothermia, since the water temperature was only about 60 degrees, he said. Paramedics treated them when they arrived onshore.