‘I knew I would die.’ Woman recounts ‘Playpen’ boating accident near Oak Street Beach that severed her feet

“My husband truly saved my life when he pulled me out of the water,” said Lana Batochir, who was injured when a boat backed into a raft Saturday afternoon.

SHARE ‘I knew I would die.’ Woman recounts ‘Playpen’ boating accident near Oak Street Beach that severed her feet
Lana Batochir was injured when a boat backed into a raft Saturday afternoon at the Playpen.

Lana Batochir was injured when a boat backed into a raft Saturday afternoon on Lake Michigan.

GoFundMe

A woman whose feet were severed in a boating accident in the “Playpen” near Oak Street Beach over the weekend says she would have drowned had her husband not pulled her out of the water at the last second.

“I truly began to drown,” Lana Batochir, 34, said on a GoFundMe page that is raising money for her recovery. “I felt myself drifting down like an object. I knew I would die.

“At a distance, I saw my husband’s eyes searching for me in a panic,” she added. “I would never forget his face of pain. We connected eyes, but I couldn’t stay up. ... My husband truly saved my life when he pulled me out of the water.”

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Police say Batochir and several other people were on a raft late Saturday afternoon in the “Playpen,” a protected part of Lake Michigan near Navy Pier that often draws hundreds of boaters on weekends.

A power boat backed into the raft and Batochir and others were pulled underneath, according to Marine Unit Officer Art Patchnik. Responding officers found Batochir and another woman hanging from the boat.

Batochir was conscious but had suffered severe injuries from the boat’s propeller. “Both feet were severed,” Patchnik said. The other woman suffered a serious injury to her hand and a tourniquet was applied.

“It was very hectic, people were in shock, we just knew we had to render aid immediately,” the officer said.

If the Chicago police were going to be called to the scene of a possible battery involving a water balloon, it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that it happened in the area of Lake Michigan off the Mag Mile known as the Playpen, shown here.

File photo of the Playpen in Chicago

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Batochir said she and her husband had gone out in a friend’s boat, and she had joined several people on a floating raft that was attached to it.

“Everything happened so fast,” she said on the GoFundMe page. “We were all under his boat within seconds. The boat’s propeller struck me, leaving me with unimaginable pain.”

Batochir says she has been told by doctors at Northwestern Memorial Hospital that her legs will have to be amputated below the knees. “It still feels like a nightmare. Anyone who knows me knows that I love to dance, love music, and enjoying life itself with family. My life has completely changed because of one unfortunate tragedy.”

But she added, “I still feel very lucky to be alive. I thought I would die. I’m grateful I will be able to hug and kiss my kids, my husband, my family and my friends. I will get through this and come out stronger with my new lifestyle.”

Batochir said she has no insurance to cover her medical bills, so she started the GoFundMe page herself. “I am being told from my doctors that I will be here for a while.”

The U.S. Coast Guard said it is seeking witnesses to the accident as the investigation continues with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. So far, no charges have been filed against the operator of the boat, a rental named La Aqua Vida.

Tucked in an enclave between Oak Street and Ohio Street beaches, the Playpen has been a popular party spot for boaters on summer weekends in Chicago. Concerns have been regularly raised about the safety of so many boats crammed so close together.

In 2019, a man drowned after slipping into the water unnoticed while hopping between boats. The 30-year-old’s body was found five days later. In 2017, a boat crash sent someone to a hospital.

Last year, Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) introduced an ordinance to limit the volume of music played from boats at the Playpen. He said it would address an increasing number of noise complaints among people who lived along the lakeshore.

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