Coast Guard rescues 46 from ice floe in western Lake Erie

Members from Coast Guard Station Marblehead rescue ice fishermen from an ice floe north of Catawaba Island, March 9, 2019. 46 people were rescued by Coast Guard and local agencies after an ice floe broke free from land. (U.S. Coast Guard Photo)

Members from Coast Guard Station Marblehead rescue ice fishermen from an ice floe north of Catawaba Island, March 9, 2019.  (U.S. Coast Guard Photo)

CLEVELAND — The U.S. Coast Guard and local agencies rescued 46 ice fishermen from an ice floe that broke free near Catawaba Island, Saturday.

An additional estimated 100 people were able to self-rescue themselves from the ice floe either by swimming or walking on ice-bridges that were still connected to the floe initially.

At 8:13 a.m., Coast Guard Station Marblehead received notification from an Ohio Department of Natural Resources representative that there were approximately 100 people stranded on an ice floe and that there were an additional 30 to 40 people in the water. Coast Guard District 9 Command Center launched two 20-foot Special Purpose Craft–airboats from Station Marblehead, two MH-65 Dolphin helicopters from Coast Guard Air Station Detroit, and two MH-60 Jayhawk helicopters from Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City to respond for a mass rescue.


Catawaba Island Fire, Put-in-Bay Fire and Southshore Towing also responded with airboats, while ODNR, North Central EMS and Danbury EMS assisted in the search and rescue efforts.

Coast Guard Station Marblehead arrived on scene at approximately 8:50 a.m. and there were no persons in the water. Those who had fallen in or intentionally entered the water to try to swim to land were all back on the ice or land.

Approximately 100 people were able to walk to shore via portions of ice that were still unbroken; however, as the temperature continued to rise, the ice broke into multiple separate ice floes. The remaining fishermen were rescued by the airboat crews and helicopter crews.

By approximately 11:15 a.m., all persons who had been stranded on the ice were rescued.

As temperatures begin to rise, the Coast Guard strongly urges people not to go out onto ice. Ice may look safe but it is difficult to determine the thickness visually and the increase in warm weather will continue to melt and weaken the ice.


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