US, Canadian Coast Guard crews respond to 11 kayakers showing signs of hypothermia

Great Lakes Coast Guard NewsCLEVELAND — The U.S. and Canadian Coast Guards teamed together to rescue 11 kayakers, early Sunday morning, in the vicinity of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada.

At 3:52 a.m., a search-and-rescue coordinator from Coast Guard Sector Buffalo, N.Y., received a mayday call from a group of kayakers reporting they were in distress and two members of the group were suffering symptoms of hypothermia.

A rescue boatcrew from Coast Guard Station Niagara, N.Y., aboard a 33-foot Special Purpose Craft—Law Enforcement, responded to the mayday call along with the Canadian Coast Guard vessel Cape Storm.

At 4:47 a.m., the 33-foot SPC-LE boatcrew arrived on scene first and took the two kayakers with symptoms of hypothermia aboard and started treatment. The Cape Storm crew arrived on scene shortly thereafter and retrieved seven more kayakers and all seven kayaks. The U.S. rescue boatcrew retrieved the final two kayakers, and all 11 were transported to Niagara-on-the-Lake. Emergency medical services were awaiting on shore and gave all kayakers a quick check-up and released them.

“We work with our Canadian partners almost on a daily basis, so this type of rescue and coordination was second nature to us,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Jeremy Mulkusky, the coxswain of the SPC-LE.

The water temperature was 73 degrees at the time of rescue. All 11 kayakers were wearing shorts and t-shirts along with life jackets. The kayakers were also all afloat in their kayaks.

No matter how warm the water or air temperature may be, the risks of hypothermia still exists, so boaters need to continue to be cautious of the risks of drowning and hypothermia.

In fact, someone in cold water may have only 10 minutes of functional movement before he loses the effective use of fingers, arms and legs. At this point, a victim who is not wearing a life jacket will likely drown because he can no longer tread water and remain afloat.

Even with a Coast Guard-approved life jacket, hypothermia is a threat to survival once someone is exposed to cold water. The body may lose heat 25 times faster in cold water than in cold air. When recreating outdoors, mariners should dress for the water temperature — not the air temperature.

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