Man nearly drowns during Air and Water Show

August 17, 2009 8:37:13 AM PDT
A jet ski performer nearly drowned during Chicago's Air and Water show Sunday.Kyle Burdka's rescue was captured on video. Sunday night, he talked to ABC7 Chicago about the experience.

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"As soon as I hit the jump and I didn't get the rotation, I realized that there would be some problems," Burdka said.

Those watching the show from the shore along North Avenue Beach never knew that 24-year-old Burdke almost drowned trying to perform a stunt. His jet ski broke on impact, and even as it pulled him under water, he would not let go of the watercraft.

"I hoped somebody had seen what was going on, and they're bringing a rope to me so I'm able to tie my ski off, able to recover," said Burdka.

That someone turned out to be fellow teammate Michael Niksic. He saw the accident unfold, but because of wave conditions, he had to finish his own stunt before going to Burdka's aid.

"So many bad things can happen in Lake Michigan in rough water. The water was exceptionally cold today, and it was extremely rough, especially behind the boats," said Niksic, who has been performing for the Air and Water Show for 16 years.

Kyle Burdka is one of the team's newest members. He said although he was not as experienced as other participants, he knew not to panic.

"Lake Michigan does get very rough at times, and today was just one of them. And even little waves come over your head. It's just the price you've got to pay for the show ," he said.

Still, by the time Niksic pulled up next to hime, Burdka was already one foot under water.

"I reached under the water as deep as I could, and I got him by the harness of his jacket, and I yanked him out of the water and put him on the back of my ski," said Niksic.

The incident unfolded in over seven minutes. Emergency responders rushed to Burkda's side. He was taken to a hospital, where he was treated and released four hours later. Then, he joined his teammates at North Avenue Beach.


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