Coast Guard assists grounded pleasure craft in Lake Erie with 15 people aboard

CLEVELAND — A Coast Guard rescue boatcrew assisted 15 people aboard a 40-foot pleasure craft that ran aground Tuesday evening in Lake Erie.

One of the passengers suffered a minor injury.

The radio watchstander at Coast Guard Station Cleveland Harbor was contacted just after 10 p.m. by a dispatcher at the Bratenhal, Ohio, Police Department, who were contacted by someone aboard the pleasure craft, reporting they had run aground about 500 yards from the Shoreby Club in Bratenahl and were taking on water. The station crew received a subsequent call directly from someone aboard the boat who was requesting assistance.

A rescue boatcrew launched from the station, already underway aboard a 45-foot Response Boat-Medium, diverted to assist. Arriving on scene at 10:20 p.m., the boatcrew transferred four of the people onto the RB-M, while the crew’s engineer went aboard the pleasure craft and proceeded to assist with dewatering.

The RB-M coxswain, or smallboat operator, decided that, given the progress being made by the dewatering pump and the grounded boat’s location and position, it was safer to leave the remaining people aboard, rather than transfer them all to the RB-M.

The RB-M crew took the pleasure craft in stern tow, pulled them free and towed them to Whiskey Island Marina in Cleveland. One of the passengers suffered a minor head injury, but declined further evaluation by EMS.

As the RB-M crew conducted a boarding of the vessel, they suspected the owner/operator of being intoxicated. This was based on his appearance as well as by passengers aboard the boat, who claimed they saw him consume alcohol. However, after passing field sobriety tests and recording a blood alcohol content within the legal limit, he was not found to be boating under the influence.

The boatcrew also noted that several of the passengers appeared to be intoxicated.

This past weekend, Coast Guard crew throughout the Great Lakes region found several boaters to be operating their vessels while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

A boat operator with a blood alcohol content above the legal limit, .08 percent (0.1 percent in Michigan waters), runs a significantly increased risk of being involved in a boating accident. Boat operators are not the only ones at grave risk — passengers who are under the influence can drown while swimming from anchored or adrift vessels.

Alcohol continues to be a leading contributing factor in recreational boating accidents, injuries and deaths.  According to the Coast Guard’s Recreational Boating Statistics 2011 report, the most current validated statistics available, alcohol use was determined to be the leading factor in 16% of the deaths in 2011

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