Crews searching for 58-year-old man who fell off boat in Lake Michigan’s ‘Playpen’ and never resurfaced

Crews are searching for a 58-year-old man who fell off a boat into Lake Michigan in Chicago  (NBC 5)
Crews are searching for a 58-year-old man who fell off a boat into Lake Michigan in Chicago (NBC 5)

Crews are searching for a 58-year-old man who is believed to have fallen off a boat in Lake Michigan.

The man, who has not been named, fell into the water around 4:20 p.m. on Saturday in an area known as Chicago’s “Playpen,” according to police.

The “Playpen” is the nickname for an area north of Navy Pier where boaters anchor. It can be a party scene, with people sometimes jumping or swimming from boat to boat.

It is not known what the 58-year-old man was doing when he fell into the water.

A search was launched on Saturday after he failed to resurface after an hour, with crews calling off the search for the night.

Crews returned to the area on Sunday morning with a boat to utilize “side scan sonar,” according to officials, but were not able to find the 58-year-old. The search is continuing on Monday.

A witness who was out on the water says the Playpen was very busy when first responders arrived on scene.

“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,” Ted Widen told WLS.

It is not the first time a boater has been involved in an accident at the Playpen. Last July, a woman was killed and six people were rescued when a boat hit a breakwall near it.

Meanwhile, in August 2022, a woman’s feet were severed in a boating accident in the area. A week after that incident a man’s body was pulled from the lake in the Playpen area.

Following Saturday’s incident, Dave Benjamin, the executive director of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, warned people to be careful out on the water amid windy conditions, urging residents to avoid alcohol and to wear life jackets when out on the water.

“Unfortunately, we see this every year because there’s a lot of people that go to the Playpen,” he said. “Alcohol may be involved. It’s very crowded. And a small incident of falling off a boat could have a fatal consequence.”

He added that the water is “still pretty cold” for this time of year, despite the warm weather.

“Cold water can incapacitate a person’s swimming ability, especially jumping from a boat having not tested the waters yet,” he said.

“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.

“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.”