The Aurora, Ill., man whose disappearance on Sunday from West Beach at
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore prompted a massive air, water, and ground
search has been found.
Late this morning, the National Park Service reported that Juan Tovar, 18,
had been located “uninjured” and that “arrangements are being made to return
him to his family.”
NPS spokesperson Lynda Lancaster was unable to provide any further
information on the incident, except to say that NPS rangers located Tovar
“off” park property and that the matter is under investigation.
Why and how Tovar vanished, where he was when scores of emergency
personnel—including two helicopters—were frantically searching for him, and
where he spent the night are, at this point, unknown.
Just before deadline today, however, Porter Fire Chief Lewis Craig told the
Chesterton Tribune that he had been informed, by the Indiana
Department of Natural Resources, that Tovar was found in Merrillville.
At 10 a.m. Sunday Tovar and nine other persons arrived at West Beach from
Illinois, NPS Chief Ranger Mike Bremer told the Tribune earlier this
At 1 p.m., while he was swimming with his group, Tovar told friends that he
was going to go for a walk. He was last seen heading to the beach in
At 4 p.m., when Tovar’s friends realized that it had been three hours since
they’d seen him, they reported Tovar missing.
An intensive search was then launched, Bremer said, involving Porter,
Chesterton, Burns Harbor, Ogden Dunes, Portage, and Gary firefighters and
emergency personnel; DNR conservation officers; NPS rangers; the U.S. Coast
Guard; and the Lake County Sheriff’s Police. Two helicopters were mobilized
as part of the search.
Meanwhile, a ground search was conducted as well and all areas of the
National Lakeshore as far west as Wells Street Beach and as far east as
Ogden Dunes were searched and each of those areas was searched a total of
five times, Bremer said.
West Beach life guards—calling on volunteers—also formed a human chain to
search about a mile and a half of water.
Bremer noted that conditions for a water search were ideal. In fact, photos
taken from the LCSP helicopter captured images of divers at the bottom of
the lake, he said. At 7 p.m. the water search was suspended, when it became
clear that Tovar almost certainly wasn’t in the water.
Searchers did locate Tovar’s vehicle, though, in the parking lot, with his
cell phone inside, Bremer said. Because Tovar was known to have brought his
cell with him to the beach, searchers at that point were able to conclude
that Tovar had made it as least as far as the West Beach lot after leaving
Family members, for their part, advised NPS that Tovar has no known health
problems. “They can’t explain what’s going on any better than we can,”