'It's really hard:' Sister, girlfriend speak out after swimmer's body recovered at Warnimont Park
Aaron Polnitz and Ambria Champion
CUDAHY -- Milwaukee County sheriff's officials on Monday, Aug. 12 identified the body recovered at Warnimont Park Sunday afternoon as that of a missing swimmer from Brookfield last seen on Monday, Aug. 5 when he failed to resurface after going under the water.
The body was identified as that of Aaron Polnitz, 19, of Brookfield, last seen on what his girlfriend said was supposed to be a day of fun with friends.
The Milwaukee County medical examiner was called out to Warnimont Park Sunday, where officials said the body was spotted by citizens who were biking in the area around 4 p.m.
"I don't know how I felt," said Aleah Polnitz, Aaron's older sister. "I was happy that we found him, but I was sad that there's no hope at all that he was still OK somewhere."
Crews were originally called out around 6:30 p.m. Aug. 5 after Polnitz was reported to have struggled in the water after encountering difficulties while returning to shore.
Officials with the Cudahy Fire Department said four young adults wandered into a spot not recognized as a public beach in Warnimont Park, and one went underwater in Lake Michigan and did not resurface. One of the individuals made it back to a location where they were able to call 911.
The group gathered at the park for a going away celebration for a friend of Polnitz, according to his girlfriend, Ambria Champion.
"We were just hanging out," said Champion. "He was coming back in from the water, well, trying to anyways, and one of his friends ran up to the shore and started screaming, which is when I realized that something was wrong."
Champion said Polnitz was panicking, and his two friends tried to help him.
"They were going under with him," said Champion. "He was pulling them under."
Then, Polnitz disappeared.
Search and rescue crews worked late into the evening searching for Polnitz, eventually calling off the search Monday night due to storms. The search became a recovery effort the next day. Polnitz still wasn't found, leading to anguish for his family.
"It's been hard," said Aleah Polnitz. "It's been really hard. He was always goofy. I'm going to cry. He was always goofy. He loved everybody and everything."
Polnitz enjoyed things like camping, swimming, and making people laugh.
"Didn't matter what he was doing," said Aleah Polnitz. "He made sure that everybody else was OK."
Cudahy's fire chief said the beauty of Warnimont Park is inviting, but it can also be dangerous, noting this was the second drowning in the park in 2019.
"Stay in designated areas, in designated public areas," said Chief Mayer.