Monday, February 9, 2009

Disregarding Safety Leads to Tragedy

Ottowa County, Ohio sheriff Bob Bratton, didn't mince words when asked about ice fishermen who apparently ignored signs that the ice was unstable on Lake Erie, leaving one man dead and 125 so-called fishermen to be rescued in a massive operation on Saturday: "If there was a section in the code about common sense, we would have made about 150 arrests out there today."

"Out there" was referring to an ice flow approximately eight miles long that broke off from land near Locust Point, Ohio. Despite a massive rescue effort involving U.S. and Canadian Coast Guard, Ohio State University and Monroe County, Ohio helicopters along with state hovercraft and airboats, one person died after slipping into the frigid waters.

According to experts, expert ice fishermen were not on the Ohio ice on Saturday, realizing that warming temperatures and a southerly wind made the ice dangerous, despite this season's ice having been thicker and normal, allowing anglers to go further out into the lake.

Although not widely publicized, there are incidents each year involving ice fishermen who have misjudged conditions and found themselves in danger and needing rescue. Saturday's stranding of approximately 125 anglers, however, was unprecedented. It was infuriating to officials like Bratton as it seemed they ignored warnings from everyone from fellow anglers to the National Weather Service that conditions were right to cause ice to break free, especially on the western part of the lake where Saturday's tragedy happened.

"We have rescued more than 150 people, and unfortunately there were two people in the water," Coast Guard spokesman Chief Petty Officer Robert Lanier told media. "One of the people was recovered and brought to shore," but the other man was pronounced dead after being taken to a hospital. The victim has been identified as sixty-five year old Leslie L. Love of New Albany, Ohio. Witnesses say Love's snowmobile sank, with Love apparently suffering a fatal heart attack despite CPR efforts from his son and Coast Guard rescue members.

Officials apparently had good reason for being frustrated with the people they later rescued. Despite already thin ice, anglers apparently laid down plywood planks in order to get onto the lake. The ice under those planks then melted, sinking their wooden path. Warming temperatures and growing winds then widened the gap, stranding them on the ice floe.

After the rescues, Ohio Division of Wildlife spokeswoman Jamey Graham repeated the state's annual warning to fishermen that "there's no such ting as safe ice."

Source: "The Fishing Wire"

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