CLEVELAND — U.S. Coast Guard and Canadian Coast Guard crews rescued two boaters and a dog Sunday morning after they were reported overdue in Lake Ontario.
Rescued are: Corey Willis, 24, from Tonawanda, N.Y.,; and Joe Apornetto, 26, from Buffalo, N.Y.
Search and rescue controllers at Coast Guard Sector Buffalo were contacted and told that a boater had left Lewiston, N.Y., Saturday afternoon and was expected back at 5:30 p.m. but had not returned home.
Cell phone records indicated that the man’s last calls were made at 7 p.m. to 911. All calls back to the number went to voicemail. SAR controllers contacted the man’s cell phone provider, who identified which towers his last calls were made from, providing a rough search area.
SAR controllers at Coast Guard Sector Buffalo directed the launch of a rescue boatcrew from Coast Guard Station Niagara, N.Y., and an aircrew from Coast Guard Air Station Detroit. Both units searched throughout the night with negative results, and the air asset from Air Station Detroit was relieved at first light by Royal Canadian Air Force aircrews aboard a CH-146 Griffon rescue helicopter and a CC-130 Hercules aircraft.
The Griffon helicopter crew located the missing boaters and dog floating in the water six miles off Port Weller, Ontario, at 7:07 a.m., just as they began searching. The Canadian Air Force crew deployed their rescue swimmer, who placed the individuals on a life raft.
A Coast Guard Station Niagara crew embarked the boaters and their dog aboard their 33-foot Special Purpose Craft-Law Enforcement and transported them to Port Weller where they were met by EMS and taken to St. Catherines General Hospital in Ontario. They were showing signs of mild hypothermia.
The dog, a golden retriever, was transported back to Station Niagara, where it will be picked up by family members.
One of the boaters was reportedly wearing a lifejacket. The dog had been placed in a seat that the men were able to detach from the sinking boat.
The men reported that their vessel started taking on water at 6:52 p.m., so they were in the water for nearly 12 hours.
This is the second time this weekend that Coast Guard SAR controllers in the Great Lakes consulted with cell phone providers to determine the location of a boater’s last phone call, something that, by law, they are not required to provide. Click here to learn about the other rescue.
Although cell phones are better than nothing, the Coast Guard recommends that all boaters also use VHF-FM marine radios, which are much more reliable in the marine environment and work in areas where cell phones sometimes don’t. Additionally, when a mayday is broadcast over channel FM Channel 16, the international hailing and distress frequency, multiple response agencies and other nearby boaters can hear the distress call and offer immediate assistance.