WILMINGTON – A Morris man drowned Tuesday night when his canoe overturned in the Kankakee River. The Will County Coroner's office has identified the victim as Dean Fredericks, 20, of Morris.
An autopsy performed Wednesday showed Fredericks died from drowning.
"He was very caring and knew how to make you laugh. Definitely a joy to be around," said Carrington Herman, a friend of Fredericks.
Deputy Chief Todd Friddle said the Wilmington Fire Department received a call at 8:49 p.m. Tuesday that four men had gone into the water. Conservation Police spokesman Chris Young said the four had been in a canoe about 500 yards downstream of the boat launch at the Des Plaines Conservation Area.
"Two guys were on the north bank of the river when we arrived, and another had just reached Bardwell Island in the middle, but the fourth was unaccounted for," Friddle said.
Friddle, who also commands the department's dive team, called other agencies to assist with search and rescue efforts. The waterway was closed to other traffic while 10 boats were used during the recovery.
"This was a large-scale night operation and the incoming weather was also a concern. If the storm had arrived earlier, we would've suspended operations," Friddle said.
But about 11:45 p.m. Wilmington divers found Fredericks submerged near the area where the canoe had been. Fredericks was pronounced dead at the scene by a deputy Will County coroner at 1:10 a.m.
Young said the incident is being investigated as an accidental drowning.
"It was a shock, just really unexpected and sad," said Jon Lanning, who was Fredericks' wrestling coach while he attended Morris Community High School.
Fredericks graduated from Morris High School in 2012.
"He was a hard worker. He worked hard at practices. He was passionate about the sport, and he was a very good contributor to the team," Lanning said.
"He was one of those guys that our team kind of counted on when he was older. Very solid member of the team who was just a work horse," the coach continued.
Morris Community High School Principal Kelly Hussey said although Fredericks graduated from the school in 2012, the school would be prepared to help any students needing to talk about their peer.
"We are prepared to address any issues with our social workers and our counseling staff. At this point in time, it's a very small group of students onsite that would be close with him still, because he's been gone for two years," Hussey said.
The Fred C. Dames Funeral Home in Joliet is handling arrangements.
• Shaw Media reporters Jessica Bourque and Heidi Litchfield contributed to this report.