Police, witnesses talk about Lake Michigan rescue

April 10, 2011 8:19:41 PM PDT
Two police officers and some witnesses came forward Sunday and talked about the rescue of two people on Chicago's lakefront.

It happened Friday night near the Columbia Yacht Club.

Chicago Police Marine Unit officers were able to put their classroom training into use on Friday night.

The officers had just finished their training on near drownings when they were called to rescue a 59-year-old man and a 60-year-old woman who accidentally fell into Lake Michigan.

The woman was in a wheelchair.

Quick-thinking witnesses also helped save their lives.

As John Boyle and Kaye Fleischer were leaving the Columbia Yacht Club Friday night, they stepped aside to allow a man wheeling a woman in a wheelchair down the ramp to the dock.

"The person was walking backwards, which I would think would be the right way to do it, so the person in the chair is facing the opposite direciton, and when they got to the bottom of the ramp, they kept going," Boyle said.

"We stood there and watched in utter amazement. He kept going and stepped off of the dock," Fleischer said.

Fleischer ran for life jackets while Boyle called 9-1-1. The Chicago Police Marine Unit was there within 3 minutes.

"The gentleman was holding onto the dock. There was civilian holding the lady just below the surface. I jumped in the water and lifted her head out of water," said Officer Kevin Hitney.

"I went ahead and grabbed the guy and pulled him out of the water. Then we assisted pulling the lady out of the water. At about that time, a boat arrived, and we began life saving procedures on the lady who was unresponsive," said Officer Kurt Kaner.

The timing of the rescue could not have been better. The Marine Unit officers had finished a training class on how to treat near drowning victims earlier that day.

The 60-year-old woman was not breathing and did not have a pulse.

After working on her for 6 minutes, officers say she began to breathe again.

"When we went to the hospital later that evening, we were told that the lady was completely unresponsive, and that the efforts of the Chicago Police Department Marine Unit saved her life," said Officer Mark Jaeger.

Marine Unit officers say the rescue went off without a hitch, with everyone working in sync with each other.

The woman and the man were taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital. The woman regained conciousness and is expected to survive.

The man isl in stable condition.