PENN TWP.--- "We woke up and I saw Vince. He made a pot of coffee. We kind of do our own thing up here. Sometimes he'll go out in his canoe or on a paddleboard," Jason Murphy, Vince Churak's nephew said. "We don't keep tabs on Vince."
67-year-old Vincent Churak called Donnell Lake a second home. He would frequently make trips there from his home in Evergreen Park, Ill. His nephew says his uncle had three loves in his life, his country, his family, and the lake. But in an ironic turn of events, the lake is what ultimately took his life.
"I heard the first help, and then the second one and I started running," witness Chuck Herman said. "But I didn't hear a third one."
Witnesses say they saw a person floundering in the water yelling for help. But they incorrectly identified the person as a young woman who they saw paddleboarding in the area causing confusion about who the victim was.
"Someone with an orange vest asked us if everyone was accounted for," Murphy said. "I said we're all here and didn't think of Vince. He mentioned some girl or woman was missing so we didn't think anything of it because Vince would go out by himself all the time. He did his own thing and went under the radar, that's why no one was worried when he was out for two hours because it was a frequent occurrence."
After over two hours of searching, at 12:55 p.m. police recovered the body of Vince Churak, just 10 feet away from the closest pier. They opened up the lake for normal boat traffic to resume which is when Murphy's family decided to take a boat ride to check out the scene.
"We went by the boat launch and I saw his paddleboard as well as his life jacket and I was concerned," Murphy said. "I dropped my family off at the lake house and went back to talk to the sheriff. He confirmed it was my uncle that was affected and who they found."
Churak was a Navy Veteran, serving during the Vietnam War. Murphy refuted reports that Churak was an "avid swimmer" but was positive he was a strong enough swimmer to save his own life.
"He paddleboarded every day, sometimes with his life jacket and sometimes without," Murphy said. "He was a very active guy. We're still waiting to see what happened and if it was a medical condition or what."