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Emergency services rescue 20 people trapped on an ice floe on Lake Erie

U.S. Coast Guard Rescue Photo Courtesy the U.S. Coast Guard

Last week, 20 people became stranded on an ice floe on the U.S. side of Lake Erie, not far from Pelee Island, Ont.

At 10:21 a.m. on January 22, the U.S. Coast Guard received a report that a group of people ice fishing had become trapped on a mile-long floe approximately a kilometre from shore.

U.S. Coast Guard
Photo Courtesy the U.S. Coast Guard

“An ice floe is when a large sheet of ice breaks off a larger ice formation,” says U.S. Coast Guard Lieutenant Adeeb Ahmad. “This could occur through strong winds, slight temperature increases, or even the wake from passing cargo ships.”

Ice fishing is a popular activity on Lake Erie this time of year. Yet, the U.S. Ice Center has reported that the ice in the area is considered thin lake ice. The ice fishers were not an organized group but rather 20 individuals who’d made their way out either walking, on ATVs, or airboats, flat-bottomed crafts that use a propeller to skim across surfaces.

In response to the report, Air Station Detroit dispatched a Coast Guard helicopter and nearby Station Marblehead dispatched two airboats. The Put-in-Bay fire department and Ottawa County sheriff’s office also responded to the call.

U.S. Coast Guard
Photo Courtesy the U.S. Coast Guard

The Coast Guard rescued nine of the stranded individuals, the Put-in-Bay fire department rescued four, and the remaining seven were able to self-rescue using their own airboat.

None of the individuals were injured or ended up in the water, according to Ahmad. The rescue took approximately two hours.

U.S. Coast Guard
Photo Courtesy the U.S. Coast Guard

“We are committed to public safety and want to remind everyone the importance of exercising caution around ice formations,” Ahmad said. “Ice floes are unpredictable and can quickly become hazardous, particularly in windy conditions or strong currents. Always check local ice conditions before venturing out and be prepared for any emergencies.”

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