(Updated to reflect new Coast Guard correction on day of incident from Thursday to Wednesday.)With the boating season's busiest holiday approaching, local, state and federal waterways officials are getting their fair share of practice.
It's a good thing, too, as on Wednesday the U.S. Coat's Station Fairport Harbor rescued two people in danger of drowning from Lake Erie.
The event occurred that afternoon near the Fairport Harbor-West Breakwater Lighthouse.
At about 3 p.m., a crew from Coast Guard Aids-to-Navigation Team (ANT) Buffalo, N.Y., was working at the Fairport West Breakwater Lighthouse when they heard screams for help from people on the pier about 100 yards away, the agency says in a media statement on the matter.
Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew Nalley, Petty Officer 3rd Class James Poole, Seaman Dillon Smith and Seaman Kirk Johnson immediately responded to the emergency.
“Upon arrival, they noticed two people in the water struggling to stay afloat,” the release says.
“The crew threw a rope into the water for the victims to grab. With the sheer face of the pier extension making recovery unlikely at that location, the crew decided to use the rope to drag the two to a safer location to recover them.”
In its release the Coast Guard says the first person to go into the water told rescuers that he suffered a cramp, preventing him from staying afloat.
His friend jumped in to assist him, but his distress put them both at risk of drowning.
It was at this time that they were noticed by people on the pier, whose screams for help alerted the Coast Guard crew working nearby on the third floor of the lighthouse.
Though this lighthouse is now owned privately the Coast Guard still accesses the iconic structure in order to maintain the agency's aid-to-navigation devices there, including illumination and audio alert equipment.
Both victims refused medical treatment and left under their own power shortly after the rescue.
As is the standard procedure for the Coast Guard, the agency does not disclose the names of people rescued.
“The command is very proud of our members for their vigilance and quick response to step in and save others in the midst of performing their duties,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Thomas Beaudoin, executive petty officer of ANT/Buffalo.
“Although the Coast Guard always appreciates when members of the public step in to help, it’s important that they don’t place themselves in harm’s way in the process. If you see a swimmer in distress, call for help before rendering aid.”
From today through Sunday the Coast Guard will join with local and state waterways safety agencies in the national “Operation Dry Water,” an annual joint project that targets enforcement of Boating while Under the Influence (BUI) laws.- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn