U.S. Coast Guard rescues 18 people trapped on ice floe in Great Lakes

Ice floe in Lake Erie. Photo courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard.

Take precautions, not chances. That's the advice that the U.S. Coast Guard offered following the rescue of 18 people who had become trapped on a section of ice in Lake Erie.

It took helicopters, boats, and a Good Samaritan to ensure everyone had been returned to safety, following the Sunday emergency near Catawba Island. 

The rescue operations took place in Ohio waters, near a peninsula that sticks out from the mainland in Lake Erie. 

Operations began around 1 p.m. after an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter reported it spotted approximately 20 people on an ice floe, along with several ATVs looking for a route back to land. The helicopter lowered its rescue swimmer and began hoisting operations while another airboat got underway. 

The Coast Guard would eventually hoist seven people from the floe, while four others were rescued by boat. 

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The remaining seven were taken back to land from a charitable individual who had a boat at the scene. Emergency medical services were standing by, but no one required any medical attention.

"There’s no such thing as safe ice, but people can mitigate their risks," said Lt. j.g. Jeremiah Schiessel, from Coast Guard Sector Detroit. "Always be sure to tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to be back. Great Lakes ice is unpredictable, and conditions can change fast."

An ice floe is considered a large piece of ice that's broken off and drifted away from land.  

A total of 98 people drowned in the Great Lakes in 2021, including 22 in Lake Erie.