UNION PIER, Mich – The body of a missing South Bend boy, who disappeared while swimming in Washington Park on Saturday, has been recovered in Lake Michigan more than 12 miles away from where he was last seen.
Indiana Conservation officers were contacted Thursday afternoon by the Chikaming Township Police Department in Berrien County, Michigan, and informed that a body matching the boy's description was found about 12:40 p.m.
They found the body along a beach, according to DNR Law Enforcement Officer Tyler Brock. DNR officers responded to the scene and positively identified the body as that of 17-year-old Rahem Mason.
La Porte County Coroner Bob Cutler said his office was notified Thursday afternoon that the boy had been found about 10 feet from shore in Berrien County, north of New Buffalo.
The body was spotted just offshore near Union Pier, according to a statement from the Chikaming Township Police Department.
Chief Todd Taylor said in the statement he was called to the beach near Victor Avenue concerning a "recovery." He met on the beach with Deputy Andrea Crosby of the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department's New Buffalo Township patrol, who spotted the body of an unidentified male near the beach.
An autopsy will be performed at the Western Michigan University School of Medicine on Friday, according to police.
Mason was last seen in Lake Michigan near Washington Park on Saturday evening, when witnesses said they saw him go under the water, but never resurface, just after 7 p.m.
The official cause of death will be determined by the autopsy, but it is believed to be an accidental drowning, Brock said.
Mason had been swimming after the lifeguards were off duty, Brock said. And the beach had been closed to swimmers because of waves reaching up to 5 feet and strong rip currents in the area caused by powerful northwest winds.
"The incident occurred after normal swimming hours and the water had been closed to swimming throughout the day due to dangerous waves and currents," he said.
Authorities from IDNR, the U.S. Coast Guard, Michigan City Fire Department, Michigan City Police Department and La Porte County Sheriff's Department had been searching since Saturday, though those efforts were hampered by the rough lake conditions on Sunday and Monday.
Assisting in the recovery were the Chikaming Township Police Department, Chikaming Township Fire Department, Berrien County Sheriff’s Department, and Berrien County Medical Examiner’s office.