Coast Guard rescues 3 near Saginaw Bay, Mich.

CLEVELAND – The U.S. Coast Guard rescued three boaters who fell into the Saginaw River near Channel Island, Mich., Wednesday afternoon after their 17-foot Javelin reportedly began taking on water.

Coast Guard Station Saginaw River received a distress call via cell phone reporting three people in the water just outside of the channel, at about 3:20 p.m., and launched a rescue crew aboard a 41-foot Utility Boat (UTB) minutes later.

The UTB crew arrived on scene and rescued all three passengers. Once onboard, the passengers were taken to Station Saginaw River and transferred to emergency medical personnel.

“Cell phones, while popular, are not consistently reliable in the boating environment and especially in a boating emergency,” said Frank Jennings, Jr., recreational boating safety program manager for the Ninth Coast Guard District in Cleveland.

Calls to 911 may not connect or may “drop.” The nearest cell tower may be out of range or, as is common in several areas within the Great Lakes region, located in Canada. Then there are the risks of battery failure or network outage. Cell phones are helpful, but when boating, they should be considered a last line of defense for emergency communications.

Boaters should instead use a marine band radio. These are not one-on-one calls, as with a cell phone, but transmissions broadcast to anyone monitoring that frequency. VHF Channel 16 is the international hailing and distress frequency, which many mariners and response organizations monitor. This increases the chances of contacting someone for help.

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