July 22, 2024
Local News

Fajman's body found on Indiana shore


BEVERLY SHORES, Ind. — The search for missing Channahon kayaker Mitchell R. Fajman ended Friday afternoon with discovery of the body at Indiana Dunes National Lake Shore.

Coroner Chuck Harris of Porter County, Ind., identified the body as that of the 18-year-old Minooka Community High School student who drowned Saturday, Oct. 15, while kayaking with two friends on Lake Michigan, near New Buffalo, Mich. The two friends also are MInooka High School students.

An inquest into the incident was performed Monday morning in Porter County. Harris said preliminary results indicate the youth accidentally drowned after his kayak overturned in 10- to 14-foot waves.

"Several witness saw him go under water," Harris said today.

The coroner did not know who discovered the body, but said it was found on the shore, half-buried in the sand.

He said it was doubtful the body had been there any length of time before the discovery, and that it had been washed up there by waves. The area is a popular spot for walkers and hikers.

"People walk along that beach every morning, rain or shine," he said.

Beverly Shores is about 12 miles south of New Buffalo, where Fajman went into the water inside a breakwater in the lake. He was with friends Nick Casmir-Lang, 18, of Shorewood, and John Basso, 17, of Channahon, when all three kayaks capsized at about 2:50 p.m.

The kayakers were wearing wetsuits, life jackets and helmets. Basso managed to reach shore on his own, while New Buffalo police rescued Casmir-Lang from the pier.

Rescuers were unable to reach Fajman, however, despite 50 minutes of trying from the shore. High waves prevented them from launching a boat in the attempt. The youth went under after slipping out of his life jacket.

New Buffalo Police Chief Larry Pitchford said during the period of time in which Fajman disappeared and immediately following, waves on Lake Michigan were most extreme.

"They were just terrible waves," he said Monday.

Pitchford said he was pleased for the family the body had been recovered.

"We did everything humanly possible to find him," the chief said. "I spoke with (the family) at length Friday night. I think it was almost a big sigh of relief — the closure."

The incident also had some quite unique effects on the New Buffalo Police Department, the officers and the community, Pitchford noted.

"A lot of it was that the guys spent over 50 minutes, and weren't able to reach him, and to watch him perish ... We had some counseling," he said.

Pitchford wished the public would have more respect for the lake.

"That lake has no mercy, and people go out into it," he said. "The lake gets ugly so fast. Two- to three- to four-foot waves turn into 10- to 12-foot waves (in a matter of minutes.) So many people go out on the lake and don't check conditions."

Minooka Community High School spokesman Dave DiLorenzo said today he hoped the finding will provide Mitchell's family, the school community, and his friends with some closure.

"We do have the crisis response plan in place that we had in effect when news first happened," he noted. "We followed the same plan again, and made sure counselors are available to students and staff for as long as the need exists."

The need is the barometer, DiLorenzo said.

The crisis response plan will be in place as long as it is necessary, with counselors available to listen and help those in need through the grieving process.