Lake Michigan Rescue: Chicago Woman Mary Kovats Commandeers Boat and Saves Capsized Husband's Life

PHOTO: Mary Kovats headed out onto Lake Michigan in Chicago to find her husband and his two friends after a severe thunderstorm. About a half mile from shore, she found all three men and their capsized boat bobbing in the water.
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Rear Commodore Mary Kovats commandeered a ship at the harbor and headed into cold and rocky waters on a rescue mission. Three men had gone missing from their boat during a storm, and Kovats was determined to find them, according to reports.

It may sound like the plot of an adventure movie, but on Wednesday night Kovats reportedly headed out onto Lake Michigan in Chicago to find her husband and his two friends after a severe thunderstorm.

"Mary Kovats unquestionably saved our lives," one of the men, Daniel Tenuta, told ABC News affiliate WLS in Chicago.

The trio had taken a 19-foot sailboat named "The Peter Pan" out for a ride at about 5 p.m. to celebrate Peter Kovats' 62nd birthday, according to The Chicago Tribune.

Mary Kovats told the Tribune that when she still hadn't heard from the men by 8 p.m, she began to get worried. The school teacher and rear commodore of the Chicago Corinthian Yacht Club decided to head out onto the water and find them herself.

She boarded a power boat with two other yacht club members in Montrose Harbor and set out in search of her husband, WLS reported.

About a half mile from shore, according to reports, she found all three men and their capsized boat bobbing in the water.

Tenuta told WLS that "in the blink of an eye we were over" into the frigid water, and that the sailboat flipped at least eight times.

"Each time we went in, it felt colder and colder and colder. Once we went in the water we had to scurry around with great effort to the other side of the boat so we could climb up on it and get away from the cold water," Tenuta said. "We're going to wait and wait and stay on the boat, because that's the rule. That's the major rule of saving your life."

With the help of the two fellow yacht clubbers she recruited from the harbor, Kovats pulled the three men, also yacht club members, from the murky water and onto her boat and brought them back to land, according to WLS.

Once they made it to safety, Kovats used her marine radio to call the police for help.

Fire department spokesman Larry Langford said the men had likely been in the 30- to 40-degree waters for about 45 minutes. They were all found conscious, but suffering from hypothermia and having trouble communicating.

Fire officials said they probably would have died after another 30 minutes in the water, and that if Kovats hadn't gone out to look for them they might never have been found alive.

Kovats, a former sailing instructor, reportedly said the men are alive today because they were all wearing life jackets and told their families what time to expect them back.

The capsized boat was later towed to the shore, completely filled with water.

All three men were taken to the Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center.

Mary Kovats' husband, Peter Kovats, is still in the intensive care unit, said Noreen Keeney, director of public affairs at the Medical Center, but she added he's doing much better.

The other two men, including Tenuta, were treated and released from the hospital, Keeney said.

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