Coast Guard responds to 2 emergencies on Saginaw Bay

Crewmembers from Coast Guard Station Saginaw River, located in Essexvile, Mich., approach a man who had fallen through the ice with his snowmobile on Saginaw Bay near Pinconning, Mich., March 16, 2015. The crew rescued the man, who was in the beginning stages of hypothermia, and took him to shore where he was evaluated by emergency medical services and released. (U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of Coast Guard Air Station Detroit)

Crewmembers from Coast Guard Station Saginaw River, approach a man who had fallen through the ice with his snowmobile on Saginaw Bay March 16, 2015. (U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of Coast Guard Air Station Detroit)

CLEVELAND — The Coast Guard responded to two separate reports of people through the ice in Saginaw Bay, Michigan, Monday afternoon.

Just before 2 p.m., a good Samaritan notified watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector Detroit of a man and snowmobile through the ice in Saginaw Bay near Pinconning, Michigan,

Sector Detroit directed the launch of an ice rescue team from Coast Guard Station Saginaw River, located in Essexville, Michigan, aboard a 20-foot airboat and an aircrew from Coast Guard Air Station Detroit, aboard a Dolphin helicopter.

The helicopter arrived on scene and was vectored to the man’s location by the Pinconning Fire Department at the same time the Station Saginaw River crew was arriving. The airboat crew deployed on to the ice and rescued the man who appeared to be in the early stages of hypothermia.

The crew transported him to shore, where they were met by emergency medical services. After initially being evaluated by EMS, the man declined further treatment.

At around 4:15 p.m., the watchstander at Station Saginaw River received a call from a woman who reported seeing what she thought was an unmanned snowmobile and an object floating in the Saginaw River.

The station dispatched an ice rescue crew and diverted the crew aboard the 20-foot airboat that was returning from the previous case. Local police and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources also responded.

Once on scene, the crew discovered an ATV half submerged, a helmet on the ice nearby and tracks leading to shore. The crew was able to obtain the registration numbers from the ATV and also spoke with people that had reported seeing a man walk off the ice from that area.

At about the same time, Michigan DNR officers located a man at a nearby boat launch who confirmed he was the operator of the ATV and that he was the only one involved. The man stated that he had already hired a salvage company to recover the ATV.

“This is the time of year that the ice becomes extremely unpredictable and dangerous,” said Mike Baron, the recreational boating safety specialist for the Coast Guard 9th District in Cleveland. “Recent warm temperatures have significantly weakened the ice.”

The Coast Guard and local agencies are reminding people who venture out onto melting and weakening ice that they are not only putting their own lives in danger, but the lives of first responders.

Ice is unpredictable and the thickness can vary, even in small areas. Water currents, particularly around narrow spots, bridges, inlets and outlets, are always suspect for thin ice. Stay away from cracks, seams, pressure ridges, slushy areas and darker areas since these signify thinner ice.

Obstruction such as rocks, logs, vegetation and pilings affect the strength of ice. Ice shifting and expanding can create pressure cracks and ridges around the obstructions.

In addition, ice near the shore of a frozen lake may be unsafe and weaker because of shifting, expansion, and sunlight reflecting off the bottom.

People walking their dogs should always keep them on a leash to prevent the pet from falling or jumping into the water.

The 1-10-1 Principle:  1 minute – 10 minutes – 1 hour 

Everyone who enters cold water doesn’t drown, but research shows that many drowning incidents may be the result of cold shock response and cold incapacitation.  In cold water drowning situations, if you survive the first minute, the cold will soon rob your muscles of their strength and dexterity. Even strong swimmers can experience swim failure after a few minutes.

When a cold water drowning situation begins, a person has about one minute to gain control of their breathing and 10 minutes or less of meaningful movement and muscle control to get themselves out of the water.  Severe hypothermia will set in within one hour, but without a life jacket, the victim is likely to drown before that occurs.

 Cold Water Kills

The Coast Guard and water safety experts say public education and preparedness may help prevent cold water drowning deaths.  In addition to understanding the physiological effects of cold water, people need to be aware that the initial shock of entering the cold water can cause panic and gasping resulting in a person inhaling large mounts of water.

“Ice is very difficult to tell if it is safe. It slowly decays and may appear thick when it is actually extremely brittle and unsafe,” said Baron. “Cold water kills. The best way to stay safe on the ice this time of the year, is to stay off the ice completely.”

The public is advised to call 911 to report a person who has fallen through the ice or who is in distress in icy waters.

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