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Report blames Playpen boat accident that severed woman's feet on 'improper lookout;' captain says it was all horrible

Report identifies captain, reveals what went wrong in Playpen boat accident
Report identifies captain, reveals what went wrong in Playpen boat accident 03:03

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A boating tragedy on Lake Michigan's popular Playpen area sent two women to the hospital recently – and one of them had to have her feet amputated.

We obtained an accident report that not only reveals what went wrong, but also who was at the controls of the boat at the time. For the first time Thursday, CBS 2's Sabrina Franza got in touch with the captain of the boat involved that day.

We learned more about his role in the tragedy – and more of what really happened before a woman's feet were severed by a boat propeller on Saturday, Aug. 13.

Our search for the captain started with a Freedom of Information Act request – which reveals his name, and landed us at his office. His name is Joseph I. Neverauskas, and he is the senior vice president of a large real estate investment firm – Equus Capital Partners.

Neverauskas is also a licensed boat captain.

He was at his office when the staff let our crew inside.

Neverauskas told us that the U.S. Coast Guard, who were on the scene that day, asked him not to speak about the investigation – and he asked us not to interview him on camera.

But when he talked with Franza about that day, he said it was horrible.

Neverauskas confirmed what we already knew – he captained the boat that backed into two women swimming inside the densely-crowded boating area in Lake Michigan known as the Playpen.

He had a license, but did not own the boat he was skippering – information we learned from an eight-page, detailed internal investigation by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

IDNR Playpen Accident Report by Adam Harrington on Scribd

We had our expert further analyze the information.

"What struck me was a point that would need further investigation is the nature of the crowdedness of this Playpen area in the lake," said Kyle McAvoy, a marine safety expert and retired U.S. Coast Guard captain. "Someone wasn't paying close enough attention to their surroundings – and they should be."

The boating accident report said it happened on a clear day with good visibility, calm waves, and light wind – and an operator with over 100 hours of experience. There was also no influence of alcohol.

So what went wrong? One expert said it's too soon to tell. But the report gives some clues.

It cites "improper lookout" – meaning, watching out for boats or people – in the packed Playpen.

"You have the job function of being a lookout to ensure that you're minimizing any risk of collision with other vessels," McAvoy said.

McAvoy said the report is too preliminary to see the whole picture – but the crowds add to the story.

"If you have many boats that are in a congested sort of place, and oftentimes, the boat operators don't understand the complexity," he said.

Report cites 'improper lookout' in Playpen boating accident that severed woman's feet 02:57

CBS 2's Steven Graves spoke last week to the woman who lost her feet, Lana Batochir. She shared the painful memories while she recovers from surgery to amputate her legs, 10 inches below her knees.

"I felt something, and I just let my body go, and I thought my legs, my intestines, and my body's next. So I thought, 'this is how I die,' and I had given up," Batochir said last week.

 A GoFundMe page has raised more than $123,000 for her medical bills as of Thursday night.

We spoke with the attorney for Batochir on Thursday. The attorney said Batochir is in good spirits and is going to be transferred to another center to start physical therapy.

Meanwhile, of right now, the State of Illinois is not handing down charges. The Coast Guard is conducting multiple separate investigations – one into what happened the day of the accident, another into whether or not they should revoke the captain's license, and a third into possible federal charges.

All the investigations surrounding this case are ongoing.

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