The Aurora, Ill., man who went missing on Sunday from West Beach at Indiana
Dunes National Lakeshore was found safe late Monday morning in East Chicago,
not quite 24 hours after losing himself on a stroll.
The odyssey of Juan Tovar, 18, began around 1 p.m. when, while swimming with
a group at West Beach, he told his friends that he was going on a walk. He
was last seen heading to shore in waist-deep water.
By Tovar’s account, he then went west along the beach, barefoot and wearing
swim trunks, National Lakeshore spokesperson Lynda Lancaster told the
Chesterton Tribune. Tovar made it as far as the U.S. Steel impoundment
at the extreme west end of Miller Beach in Gary, where apparently he found a
hole in the fence and climbed through.
At some point U.S. Steel security personnel saw him on mill property and
gave chase, Lancaster said. Tovar fled, only to find himself on U.S. Highway
12, where evidently folks weren’t feeling the Good Samaritan vibe. “He
couldn’t get anyone to help him,” Lancaster said.
Eventually Tovar found succor at St. Mary’s Catholic Church at 822 W. 144th
St. in East Chicago, three blocks south of U.S. 12, where a good soul lent
him a phone, Lancaster said. Tovar then called his parents in Aurora.
Tovar received no medical treatment, Lancaster noted, although he was hungry
and thirsty. “We’re really glad he was found uninjured,” she said. “Poor
guy. He had a really bad day.”
National Park Service rangers estimated that Tovar traveled 20 miles in
about 19 hours before journey’s end.
Tovar’s disappearance on Sunday prompted a massive water, air, and ground