Person falls off boat at Chicago 'Playpen,' crews suspend water search, authorities say

ByABC7 Chicago Digital Team and Stephanie Wade WLS logo
Sunday, June 16, 2024
Person falls off boat at Chicago 'Playpen,' crews suspend water search
A person fell off a boat at the Chicago "Playpen" Saturday, authorities said. Crews suspended their Lake Michigan water search without finding anyone.

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Witnesses told Chicago police and fire officials that a person fell off of a boat and into the water in Lake Michigan Saturday afternoon.

On a busy afternoon in Chicago's "Playpen," safety crews responded to several emergency calls.

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Crews could be seen searching the water near in the enclosed boating area near downtown. After about an hour looking for someone who reportedly fell into the water, safety crews called off their search for the evening, authorities told ABC7.

"All of a sudden, we started seeing helicopters flying around and a lot of ambulances and fire department and the dive squad and all that stuff so we knew something was up," witness Ted Widen said.

Widen was out on a separate boat. He said the nice weather brought a large crowd to the "Playpen" Saturday.

"It was the most crowded day of the year without a doubt be weekday or weekend," Widen said. "It was really crowded. And then there was an event going on, the black yacht weekend it's called and so they had hundreds of boats tied up. It's a great time if it's done properly and safely, and there's always X number of people who just get a little too carried away or sometimes it's simply an accident, they slip, fall, boom, and that's that. It is scary."

The Chicago Fire Department is now calling the effort to find the person a recovery mission.

"Unfortunately, we see this every year because there's a lot of people that go to the playpen," said Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project Executive Director Dave Benjamin. "Alcohol may be involved. It's very crowded. And a small incident of falling off a boat could have a fatal consequence."

Benjamin said the city is entering prime drowning season, and Sunday's wind forecast for Father's Day is troubling. The choppy waves could pose very dangerous conditions for those out on the water.

"We just don't want somebody's family fun day at the beach to turn into tragedy that they then have to live with, and compounding it on Father's Day tomorrow," Benjamin said. "We know that there's going to be a lot of people the beach. It's going to be hot. People want to get out there and have some fun, but keep the inflatables at home from the south end of Lake Michigan and going north, understand the water will get more turbulent and several types of dangerous currents."

Very little identifying details of the person who fell into the water are known. The age and gender of the person was not yet officially known.

ABC7 is working to find out when the marine unit may continue their search.

No further information was immediately available.