Body found in Waukegan identified as teen who drowned while saving another

Authorities in the north suburbs have identified a body found in Waukegan Harbor as a teenage boy who drowned while saving his friend who fell in Lake Michigan.

The body of Matthew “Mateo” Garcia, 16, was recovered at the lakefront almost four months after he went missing there on Jan. 18, Lake County Coroner Howard Cooper said.

Someone spotted Garcia’s body in the water on April 11, the Lake County sheriff’s office said.

Garcia’s mother, Susan Medina, said her son jumped into the water to save his friend who fell from a pier at Waukegan Municipal Beach.

The friend was pulled from the water, but Garcia remained missing, Medina said.

Police and fire crews spent the next three months searching the waters for Garcia. The Waukegan Fire Department called off the search on March 26 after searching the beach with sonar.

“My son was a happy and caring young man,” Medina wrote online. She is asking for donations to create a scholarship for teens in honor of Garcia.

A preliminary autopsy found that Garcia, of Grayslake, died of drowning, Cooper said.

“We have been in close contact with Matthew’s family and our deepest condolences go out to them during this difficult time. This is truly an awful tragedy,” Cooper said.

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