DETROIT — Less than 100 maritime emergency responders and law enforcement officers assisted thousands of people who participated in the unsanctioned marine event known as the Port Huron Float Down in Port Huron, Michigan, Sunday.
Monitoring the safety of roughly 5,000 participants were members of 20 U.S. agencies and six Canadian agencies operating 38 boats and personal watercraft.
Preliminary information gathered from responding agencies indicates that nine lives were saved, 285 lives were assisted, more than 150 people became separated from the group they started floating down the river with, and about 1,850 people had to be assisted back across the border after wind blew them into Canadian waters. Emergency medical services assisted seven people and transported four to the hospital.
The Coast Guard established a safety zone that secured all motor vessel traffic in the St. Clair River and a temporary life jacket regulation requiring all minors under the age of 18 to wear life jackets during the event.
Although more children were seen wearing life jackets than in years past, U.S. Coast Guard boat crews distributed 35 life jackets to minors who should have been wearing them.
Wind dispersed participants across the St. Clair River more during the 2015 Float Down than in previous years, and since many people did not have paddles or other means to direct themselves back to the U.S. side they had to be towed.
Float Down poses significant and unusual hazards given the fast-moving current, large number of participants, lack of life jackets, alcohol consumption, potentially challenging weather conditions, water temperature, and limited rescue resources.