Coast Guard reiterates safety measures following rescue of man on ice-covered Sturgeon Bay

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CHICAGO — The Coast Guard and representatives from local emergency response agencies are reiterating to everyone the importance of taking the proper precautions before heading outdoors for winter recreation, following a rescue of a Wisconsin man who became disoriented on ice-covered Sturgeon Bay Tuesday evening.

At about 5:15 p.m., search-and-rescue controllers at Coast Guard Sector Lake Michigan Command Center received a call from a 911 dispatcher about a man who was disoriented on Sturgeon Bay on his all-terrain vehicle in blizzard conditions. The man was able to call 911 from his cell phone and, as a result, the dispatchers were able to determine his coordinates.

The command center contacted Coast Guard Station Sturgeon Bay, Wis., to dispatch a rescue crew trailering a 22-foot Special Purpose Craft-Airboat. When they arrived, representatives from the Sturgeon Bay and Brussels-Union-Gardner fire departments, and Door County Emergency Services, were also on scene working together to locate the lost man in blizzard and white-out conditions. Temperatures were in the teens with wind chills well below zero.

At the same time, Sturgeon Bay Fire Department Assistant Fire Chief Tim Dietman was in contact with the county dispatch center, which was in constant contact with the disoriented man via cell phone telling him to remain at his location in order to make him easier to locate.

Meanwhile, an off-duty Door County paramedic who heard the ongoing case on her pager sent Dietman a text message to let him know that her fiancé was also out on Sturgeon Bay in the general location of the lost man. She provided Dietman with her fiancé’s contact information.

Dietman began texting him with the lost man’s coordinates. Minutes later, he called Dietman stating that, with the help of his GPS, he had located the lost man about a mile and a half north of Sand Bay and was bringing him back to land. Both men returned to shore at about 6:15 p.m.

The lost man, a resident of nearby Luxemburg, refused medical treatment from paramedics waiting on shore.

The Coast Guard and other first responders would like people to remember the acronym “ICE” when it comes to ice safety and when planning to venture out on the lakes. ICE = Information, Clothing and Equipment:

Information – Check the weather and ice conditions; tell a friend of your intended destination; know who and how to call for help.

Clothing – Wear sufficient clothing, including a dry suit, to prevent hypothermia. Choose bright colors and reflective garments to aid searchers if you should end up needing help.

Equipment – Never venture onto the ice without proper safety equipment: a marine radio, a Personal Locator Beacon, a life jacket, a compass or GPS, and screw drivers or ice picks which may allow you to pull yourself out of the water should you break through.

“This is a perfect example of how having a cell phone, at the very least, can save your life,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Ted Connelly, coxswain of the Station Sturgeon Bay airboat crew. “The 911 was able to determine his location even though he didn’t know where he was.”

“This person was very lucky,” stated Dietman. “In addition to a cell phone, we recommend people also take a GPS with them. And, we also want people to remain vigilant to the ever-changing weather conditions.”

The Coast Guard 9th District recently published their “Think Twice with Ice” safety brochure.

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