Coast Guard rescues stranded boater in Lake Erie

9th Coast Guard District NewsCLEVELAND — Coast Guard search and rescue controllers, boatcrew members and aircrew members worked together to locate a 62-year-old man stranded in Lake Erie after his boat broke down Saturday evening.

Search and rescue controllers at the Coast Guard’s 9th District Command Center were contacted at 3:59 p.m. by a man who stated that his father had just called him from his cell phone, reporting he was stranded in Lake Erie in his 19-foot pleasure craft.

The reporting source stated that before he could obtain any more information from his father, the call was lost and he could no longer reach him. The man reported to the Coast Guard that, although he was not entirely sure where his father departed, he suspected it may have been from the 72nd Street Marina in Cleveland.

SAR controllers at Coast Guard Sector Buffalo, N.Y., directed the launch of a Coast Guard Station Cleveland Harbor rescue boatcrew aboard their 45-foot Response Boat-Medium to search the marina for signs of the man. A rescue helicopter crew aboard an MH-65C Dolphin rescue helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station Detroit was diverted from another mission to aid the search.

SAR controllers from the 9th District Command Center contacted the man’s cell phone provider and were able to use their towers to trace his last phone call to a location in Lake Erie. The Sector Buffalo SAR controllers used this information to produce an updated search pattern for the crews.

On the helicopter’s first search of the area, the aircrew located the disabled vessel and vectored in the Station Cleveland Harbor boatcrew to effect a rescue at 6:54 p.m.

The man’s boat had reportedly suffered a mechanical failure and, to ensure his safety, the boatcrew towed his vessel back to 72nd Street Marina.

“This search and rescue case was really interesting when you consider the use of the technology to locate the missing man,” said Lt. j.g. Casey Teeven, a SAR controller at the 9th District Command Center. “And, we’re thankful to the cell phone company for their assistance, although we always prefer mariners have a marine radio also, so we can maintain communications throughout the situation.”

The Coast Guard recommends that all boaters use VHF-FM marine radios. While many rely on cell phones for emergency communications on the water, VHF-FM radios 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.

The Coast Guard also recommends that mariners leave what’s called a “float plan” back onshore with a friend or family member. A float plan is a lifesaving device on paper and can assist emergency responders with locating a distressed mariner. Click here for more information about float plans, as well as a printable float plan and boating emergency guide.


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