CLEVELAND — U.S. and Canadian Coast Guard crews collaborated to rescue four people in separate cases early Monday morning on Lake Erie.
Just before 3 a.m. watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector Buffalo, New York, heard a mayday call over VHF-FM channel 16 from a 37-foot sailing vessel that was taking on water with one man aboard.
Sector Buffalo launched a Coast Guard Station Buffalo crew aboard a 45-foot response boat and requested the launch of a Dolphin helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Detroit.
After determining the vessels position to be in Canadian waters in shoal water off Pt. Abino, Ontario, Joint Rescue Coordination Centre Trenton, Ontario, took control of the case, launching two surface vessels, a C-130 fixed-wing aircraft and requested that the Coast Guard assets continue en route.
The vessel’s master reported he was abandoning ship into a dingy and was being swept out into the lake.
The Buffalo crew arrived on scene and located the man, who is a U.S. citizen, and the dingy. The crew confirmed he was the only person aboard and transported him to awaiting EMS for evaluation in Buffalo. EMS reported the man was cold but alert.
The man was wearing a life jacket and there are no reports of pollution. The sailboat remains sunk off Pt. Abino.
Shortly after that rescue, Sector Buffalo overheard a call on VHF-FM channel 16 that a 42-foot yacht with three people aboard was taking on water 20 nautical miles west of Long Point, Ontario, in Lake Erie. A woman then stated the vessel had capsized and they were clinging to the hull.
JRCC Trenton diverted their surface assets and relaunched the C-130. Sector Buffalo diverted the Air Station Detroit helicopter that had just completed the previous search.
“The sea state was approximately 6-foot swells,” said Lt. Rachel Quatroche, the helicopter pilot from Air Station Detroit. “Had the survivors not been wearing their life jackets, it is unlikely they would have been able to remain floating in the rough conditions. It was wise of them to don their flotation devices when it became evident that capsizing was a very real possibility. According to the survivors, they were in the water for approximately two hours.”
The Detroit crew located the vessel, but was beginning to run low on fuel. The crew jettisoned the on-board dewatering pump to reduce weight and deployed a rescue swimmer. Because the people were showing signs of hypothermia, the air crew hoisted the three people, who are all Canadian citizens, and took them to awaiting EMS in Erie, Pennsylvania. The swimmer was picked up and returned by a Canadian Coast Guard vessel that had arrived on scene just as the helicopter was departing.
Upon arrival, all three survivors declined medical assistance.
Customs and Border Protection was notified and is making arrangements to return the people back to Canada.
The vessel was approximately 2.5 nautical miles offshore of Long Point when it broke apart and capsized. A large amount of debris was reported in the area, and Sector Buffalo is working with JRCC Trenton to recover the debris since forecasted weather may push it toward Dunkirk, New York.
The weather was reported as 20 knot winds, 6-foot seas and a water temperature of 46 degrees.