Great Lakes Coast Guard has busy weekend, stresses boating safety

Operation Dry WaterCLEVELAND – Coast Guard crews across the Great lakes had a busy Operation Dry Water weekend, responding to more than 100 cases of mariners in distress, rescuing seven, assisting 133 and removing from the water 6 operators who were boating under the influence.

With the longer Fourth of July weekend coming up, the Coast Guard stresses the importance of boating safe and sober.

“Along with alcohol use, three of the other top five contributing factors in recreational boating deaths are operator inattention, improper lookout and inexperience of the operator,” said Mike Baron, the U.S. Coast Guard 9th District recreational boating safety specialist. “Boat operators are not only responsible for their own boats, but also for the safety of their passengers and the other boats around them.”

The Coast Guard offers the following safety tips:

  • Wear a life jacket
  • Historically, about 75 percent of the people who die in boating accidents drown. Of those who drown, about 80 percent were not wearing life jackets.
  • If you do find yourself in trouble and in the water, stay with your vessel for as long as possible, even if it capsizes. Do not try to swim for shore.
  • Have a marine band radio and visual distress signals. While many boaters rely on cell phones for emergency communications on the water, VHF-FM radios are much more reliable in the marine environment and work in areas where cell phones sometimes don’t.
  • Also, have a personal locator beacon. A PLB is a compact device that is clipped to a boater, normally on the life jacket he or she is wearing. Once activated in a distress situation, the PLB transmits a signal to the International Cospas-Sarsat Satellite System, which provides distress alert and location data for search and rescue operations around the world.
  • Do not boat under the influence of alcohol or illegal substances
  • Always file a float plan
  • Keep children informed of water safety
  • The Coast Guard encourages the boating public to educate children about water safety. There are kid-friendly resources ready for the task!
  • Always check the weather before venturing out

The following synopses are just a few of the responses the Coast Guard was involved in during the weekend.

Lake Erie:

A law enforcement boat crew from Coast Guard Station Toledo, Ohio, conducted a boarding of a 23-foot boat near Maumee Bay, Ohio, where the operator of the boat admitting to consuming seven beers within the last hour. The operator then failed all field sobriety tests given to him. The Coast Guard towed the vessel to safety and made sure the operator got a ride home with a sober friend. Additionally, the Coast Guard gave the operator a federal ticket for boating under the influence.

A rescue boat crew from Coast Guard Station Marblehead, Ohio, conducted a medical transport of a 54-year-old man with a shoulder injury from Kelleys Island in Lake Erie back to the station, where emergency medical services were waiting to take the man to a local hospital.

A rescue boat crew from Coast Guard Station Buffalo, New York, assisted four people aboard a 29-foot boat that had become disabled and was in danger of hitting the Buffalo Outer Harbor Breakwall.

A rescue boat crew from Coast Guard Station Cleveland Harbor rescued a man from a sinking 23-foot boat near Whiskey Island in Lake Erie. The crew used a dewatering pump to dewater the boat and then towed it to safety.

St. Clair River:

A law enforcement team from Coast Guard Station Port Huron, Michigan, conducted a boarding on a 20-foot boat with six people aboard. Of the six people aboard, five were under the age of 21. The boarding team found open beer cans throughout the boat and none of the passengers would submit to a chemical breath test or field sobriety tests. The crew towed the vessel to a local boat launch where the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Office took custody of all the boaters. The operator was given a federal ticket for boating under the influence.

A rescue boat crew from Coast Guard Station Port Huron assisted three people in the St. Clair River when the 30-foot boat they were on became disabled. They towed them to safety at a nearby boat ramp.

Lake Superior:

A rescue boat crew from Coast Guard Station Marquette, Michigan, assisted three adults and two children in Lake Superior when the 27-foot boat they were on became disabled. The crew towed the vessel to safety at a local marina.

Lake Ontario:

A rescue boat crew from Coast Guard Station Sodus Point, New York, rescued two people from Lake Ontario when the 18-foot boat they were on began sinking. The crew escorted them back to their private dock.

Lake Michigan:

A law enforcement team from Coast Guard Station Calumet Harbor, Illinois, conducting a patrol in Lake Michigan observed a boat navigating recklessly. Upon boarding the boat, the team found open alcohol containers on the deck. The operator failed six field sobriety tests and had a blood alcohol content level of .101 during the chemical breath test. The team towed the vessel to a private mooring and released the operator to safety after giving him a federal ticket for boating under the influence.

A law enforcement team from Coast Guard Station Milwaukee aboard a Milwaukee Police boat as part of Operation Dry Water boarded an 18-foot boat in Lake Michigan that was seen navigating recklessly. The operator had a blood alcohol content level of .166 during the chemical breath test. The man was taken into custody by the Milwaukee Police Department for boating under the influence and given a federal ticket for boating under the influence by the Coast Guard.

A law enforcement team from Coast Guard Station Calumet Harbor, in Chicago, conducting a patrol in Lake Michigan observed a vessel traveling at a high rate of speed and navigating recklessly and without navigation lights. The team conducted a boarding on the vessel and the operator failed three out of six field sobriety tests and had a blood alcohol content level of .142 during the chemical breath test. The boat was towed to a local marina and the operator was given a federal ticket for boating under the influence.

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