Metro-East News

Man who drowned in Rend Lake saved 2 girls before going under, girlfriend says

Jeremy Jelley and his girlfriend Heather Mitchell pose for a photo during a boat outing on Rend Lake on Friday. Jelley drowned after he jumped in choppy waters and saved Mitchell’s two girls.
Jeremy Jelley and his girlfriend Heather Mitchell pose for a photo during a boat outing on Rend Lake on Friday. Jelley drowned after he jumped in choppy waters and saved Mitchell’s two girls.

A 37-year-old man who drowned in Rend Lake on Friday helped rescue two 12-year-old girls from choppy waters before he went underwater himself, according to his girlfriend.

Search crews found Jeremy Jelley, of Geff, at 10:32 a.m. Sunday after nearly two days of searching the lake, according to Illinois Conservation Police Officer Timothy Lay.

The man was out boating with his girlfriend, Heather Mitchell, and her daughter and step-daughter, both 12-years-old, according to Mitchell. The girls, who had been wearing life jackets, had been swimming for a few hours when the wind became stronger, Mitchell said.

Despite the life jackets, high waves overcame the girls, and Jelley jumped in the lake to try and save them, Mitchell said. He managed to push the girls close enough to the boat so they could climb aboard, but he went under himself. He was not wearing a life jacket, Mitchell said.

Three children of his own survive Jelley, Mitchell said.

Franklin County Sheriff Don Jones told The Southern Illinoisan that winds likely increased suddenly, causing dangerous water conditions.

Rend Lake is a 19,000-acre lake in Jefferson and Franklin counties near Benton.

Kaley Johnson: 618-239-2526, @KaleyJohnson6

Kelsey Landis: 618-239-2110, @kelseylandis

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