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After recent Lake Michigan drownings, boating accident in the Playpen, city officials urge water safety

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CHICAGO (CBS) — With at least three people pulled from Lake Michigan in recent days, and a devastating boating accident in the Playpen, Chicago Police and Fire Department officials are doubling down on safety messages for lakefront visitors.

Every three hours, city sonar teams are searching for a person who went missing Wednesday night after falling from a boat in the Playpen. So far they haven’t been found. Another person who fell from that boat was pulled from the water Wednesday evening, and taken to the hospital in critical condition.

Two other bodies have been pulled from the lake at Montrose and Diversey harbors in recent nights, and authorities also responded to incident along the lake near 37th Street. On Saturday, a boating accident in the Playpen left two people severely injured, including a woman who needed to have her legs amputated below the knees after her feet were severed by a boat propeller.

Police and Fire officials said, despite the recent cluster of incidents, this summer season has actually been better safety wise than many in recent years. 

“I’ve looked up the numbers, and this time it happens to be just a cluster. It’s actually our calls for service have been a bit down,” Chicago Police Marine Unit Lt. Tony Mendez said.

Officials said more boats than normal have been caught up in seaweed, but the overall message is about wearing life jackets and not drinking and boating.

“It’s just too many boats, too many swimmers, and people not respecting the water the way they should,” Mendez said.

Authorities said boat captains need to be responsible, particularly with the Air and Water Show this weekend.

Police are stepping up their patrols of those drinking while boating, but there are no policy changes along the lakefront this weekend given the tragic events of the past week.

Chris Tye

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