Port Clinton, Ohio: Authorities say nearly four dozen fishermen trapped on an ice floe in Lake Erie have been rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard and local emergency personnel in northern Ohio.
The Coast Guard and Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office began receiving reports around 8:30 a.m. Saturday that a large number of people had become stuck on an ice floe that had broken off from the main ice pack connected to Catawba Island.
Coast Guard Petty Officer Brian McCrum says the Coast Guard launched helicopters out of Detroit, and along with local rescue personnel, sent airboats to retrieve the stranded fishermen. McCrum says 46 people were rescued, including two fishermen who were hoisted by helicopter and received medical assessments.
About 100 people made it back to shore on their own, some wading through the frigid water.
Ice fisherman walk to shore from a Coast Guard airboat after being rescued from Lake Erie this morning after melting ice left them stranded. A large-scale federal-state-local coordinated rescue effort is underway. pic.twitter.com/c60zz0afGB
— Ohio_EMA (@Ohio_EMA) March 9, 2019
“It happened really fast,” Tony Adkins, 42, of Akron, told reporters. He was on the ice for around 20 minutes before the cracks in the ice appeared. “We didn’t know there was open water beyond us,” he said.
“Thank God the Coast Guard was here for us,” Adkins added. “You live and you learn, I guess.”
The Coast Guard said that boats and helicopters were dispatched for what it termed a mass rescue. Amid rising temperatures, “the ice broke into multiple separate ice floes” and helicopter and airboat crews were able to rescue the fishermen. Local fire and EMS and other agencies and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources also assisted.
In 2009, there was another mass rescue of ice fishermen who were stranded on a large ice floe in Lake Erie, the Associated Press reported at the time.
In that case 134 fishermen were stranded, and the fishermen had ignored cracks in the ice and high-wind warnings, and some even built a makeshift bridge across the cracking ice to reach a favorite fishing spot, the AP reported. One person died that day after his snowmobile broke through the ice about 200 yards from shore.
The Coast Guard said Saturday that as temperatures begin to rise, it “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,” the Coast Guard said in a statement.
Catawba Island is located north of Sandusky.