Life jackets helped boaters survive 21 hours treading water in Lake Erie

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CLEVELAND — Three boaters were rescued by a good Samaritan Sunday morning after spending 21 hours treading water in Lake Erie after their fishing vessel capsized near Conneaut, Ohio.

This case demonstrates how life jackets can help mariners remain alive while awaiting rescue.

The Coast Guard was contacted Sunday at 12:55 p.m. and informed that four to five hours earlier, three men had been rescued by a good Samaritan, who found them treading water, hanging onto the hull of their capsized 20-foot fishing vessel. The reporting source stated they were suffering from hypothermia and were transported to shore, where EMS took them to a local hospital.

The men claimed the boat capsized Saturday at about 4 p.m. The vessel was towed ashore by a commercial salvage crew after the men were rescued Sunday afternoon.

“The boaters involved in this incident are alive today because they did two very smart things — they had their life jackets on and they stayed with their boat,” said Michael Baron, recreational boating safety specialist at the 9th Coast Guard District Auxiliary and Recreational Boating Safety Branch.

Another preparation boaters can take to further lessen the risk of death or injury is filing a float plan with family or friends who can contact authorities when boaters don’t return as scheduled. Boaters should also consider investing in an emergency positioning indicating radio beacon or personal locator beacon.

To meet U.S. Coast Guard requirements, a boat must have a Coast Guard-approved type I, II, III, or V (wearable) life jacket for each person aboard. Boats 16 feet and longer (except canoes and kayaks) must have at least one type IV (throwable) device as well.

According to the Coast Guard Office of Auxiliary and Boating Safety’s Recreational Boating Statistics 2012, the most current validated statistics available, 651 boaters died in U.S. waterways during that calendar year with more than 70 percent of those deaths the result of drowning. Among those 459 drownings, 379 deaths — or nearly 85 percent of the drowning deaths — involved victims who were known to not be wearing a life jacket.

The Coast Guard recommends that life jackets be worn at all times when out on the water. For boaters 13 years old and younger, a life jacket is legally required to be worn while boating.

The Coast Guard also recommends boaters remain in contact with someone onshore and also file a float plan. Float plans do not have to be written or submitted anywhere, but as long as someone knows the general facts of a boater’s planned outing, they can report it to the proper authorities in case of an emergency.

More information about life jackets can be found on the Coast Guard’s Boating Safety Resource Center website.

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