Coast Guard crew responds to disabled vessel report, finds intoxicated operator

25 Rio VistaCLEVELAND — A Coast Guard response to a report of a disabled vessel in Lake Michigan Wednesday evening just north of Pentwater, Michigan, resulted in the operator being taken into custody by local police for boating under the influence when alcohol testing revealed his blood alcohol content was 0.194.

Shortly before 9:30 p.m., watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector Lake Michigan in Milwaukee were notified via VHF-FM channel 16 of a disabled 20-foot vessel with two people aboard approximately 2 nautical miles north of the Pentwater pier. Communication with the vessel was spotty and there was no working cell phone aboard.

Sector Lake Michigan directed a Coast Guard Station Ludington, Michigan, boat crew to respond aboard a 25-foot response boat due to the communication issues and the vessel’s proximity to shore. The crew arrived on scene shortly after and towed the vessel to Charlie’s Marina.

During the post-search-and-rescue boarding, the Coast Guard boarding officer suspected the operator may be under the influence of alcohol. Officers from the Pentwater Police and Oceana County Sheriff’s Department were contacted and once on scene, administered field sobriety tests. The operator failed four of the six tests.

The Pentwater Police also administered a blood alcohol test on the operator, revealing a 0.194 BAC, more than double the legal limit of .08. The Oceana County Sheriff’s Department took the operator into custody.

The Coast Guard also cited the operator for operating a vessel without navigation lights and for not having flares or other visual distress signals.

“Boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs is extremely reckless and a danger to everyone on the water,” says Mike Baron, the recreational boating safety specialist for the Coast Guard 9th District in Cleveland. “The marine environment can be dangerous enough, without alcohol being involved.”

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