Coast Guard, CBP respond to capsized catamaran in Lake Erie

CLEVELAND — The Coast Guard conducted a search for three sailors who were aboard a 16-foot catamaran that capsized in the vicinity of Presque Isle, offshore of Erie, Pa., in Lake Erie Monday evening.

The three men, rescued by a boatcrew from Customs and Border Protection, demonstrated sound safe boating practices that may have saved their lives.

Search and rescue controllers at the 9th Coast Guard District Command Center in Cleveland were notified at 7:30 p.m. by the father of one of the men, who reported the sailors overdue when they did not arrive at a planned dinner.

The man referenced Presque Isle’s Beach 10 as their possible location.

The Coast Guard immediately began issuing an urgent marine information broadcast, alerting mariners in the area of the overdue sailors.  SAR controllers at Coast Guard Sector Buffalo directed the launch of search and rescue crews aboard an MH-65C Dolphin rescue helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station Detroit and a 47-foot Motor Lifeboat from Coast Guard Station Erie.

Personnel at the 9th District Command Center were able to work with cell phone providers obtain cell phone data, which also lead search crews to Presque Isle.

A Customs and Border Protection boatcrew from Customs Air/Marine’s Erie station assisting in the search located the three men clinging to the hull of the capsized catamaran.  All three were wearing life jackets.  The CBP crew took the men aboard and transported them to Dobbins Landing, where they were checked by EMS and released with no injuries.

“It appears as though these men did everything right,” said Frank Jennings Jr., recreational boating and water safety program manager for the 9th District.  “They were wearing life jackets and they stayed with their overturned vessel — providing a much bigger object for search crews to locate.”

“In addition, if it wasn’t for one of concerned father reporting them overdue to the Coast Guard, how else would we have known to begin looking for them?  Float plans left with family, friends or a marina can save lives.”

The Coast Guard recommends that mariners wear a properly fitting Coast Guard-approved life jacket at all times while underway.  According to the Coast Guard’s Recreational Boating Statistics 2011 report, the most current validated statistics available, of the 533 people across the nation who drowned in recreational boating accidents in 2011, 84 percent were not wearing a life jacket.

A life jacket can only save your life if you’re wearing it.

Click here to learn more about life jackets at the Coast Guard Boating Safety Resource Center.

The Coast Guard also recommends all boaters file a float plan — a description of where you’re going, when you plan on returning, description of your vessel, and other pertinent information that response agencies would need to locate you.  Boaters should leave this information with a friend or family member who is remaining ashore, and they should update their emergency contact if plans change.  Click here for more information and an example of a float plan.

It is not known how the vessel capsized.  It has since been salvaged by a family member.

One of the boaters rescued was an active-duty Coast Guardsman, while another was an active-duty Navy sailor.


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