Coast Guard Cutter Morro Bay rescues man adrift on Lake Erie ice floe on his birthday

In this file photo, the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Morro Bay, a 140-foot ice breaking tug home ported in New London, Conn., approaches Kingston, N.Y., to clear ice from shipping channels for commercial traffic, such as home heating oil barges, on the Hudson River, Feb. 11, 2009. The Morro Bay serves a multitude of missions in the waterways of Long Island Sound, New York and New Jersey, such as search and rescue operations, ice breaking, and homeland security. (U.S. Coast Guard photo/Petty Officer Seth Johnson)

USCG Cutter Morro Bay file photo

CLEVELAND – Crewmembers from the New London, Conn.-based U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Morro Bay, a 140-foot ice breaking tug temporarily assigned to the Great Lakes, rescued a Canadian man from a piece of ice about four nautical miles southwest of Colchester, Ontario, at about 8:30 a.m., Wednesday.

Jim Turton, from Colchester, Ontario, turned 45 years old today.

The Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Trenton, Ontario, notified the U.S. Coast Guard Ninth District Command Center at about 11:25 p.m., Tuesday to request help searching for four snowmobilers who reportedly fell through the ice near Colchester. Three of the individuals were able to get onto a piece of ice connected to shore, while the fourth climbed onto a piece of ice roughly the size of a football field that was not connected to shore and began floating out into Lake Erie.

Poor weather conditions prevented Coast Guard Air Station Detroit from launching a helicopter. The Morro Bay was about 30 minutes away from the search area when the Coast Guard was notified, and under direction of Coast Guard Sector Detroit, got underway at midnight to head for the man’s last known location.

Once the cutter crew located him, the Morro Bay pulled up alongside and lowered Petty Officer 3rd Class Jeremy Lake down to the ice. From there, Lake helped the snowmobiler climb up the rope ladder and onto the cutter.

“I joined the Coast Guard to make a difference,” said Lake, who is originally from Berkeley Springs, W.Va., and has been stationed on the Morro Bay since April 2010. “It feels good to save a life.”

Also assisting with the search were personnel from the Ontario Provincial Police and local Canadian fire departments. The Canadian coast guard ship Samuel Risley also launched, but arrived after the Morro Bay crew rescued the snowmobiler. The Morro Bay crew transferred the man to the Samuel Risley for transport back to Canada.

“Although some may not directly associate the Coast Guard’s ice breaking fleet with our service’s search and rescue mission, this successful rescue proves that, at the heart of all Coast Guardsmen, we are lifesavers,” said Rear Adm. Michael N. Parks, commander of the Ninth Coast Guard District.

“I commend all of the U.S., Canadian and local agencies involved because, without their quick action and collaboration, the outcome of this morning’s incident could have been much different,” Parks continued. “I also want to specifically commend the crew of the Cutter Morro Bay for embracing the Ninth District’s mission ethos, which resulted in a life being saved.”

Lake and another crewman from the Morro Bay just attended an ice rescue training school at the Coast Guard’s Ice Capabilities Center of Excellence in Essexville, Mich., Jan. 25-28, 2011.

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