YOUNGSTOWN, NY - A Coast Guardsman who led the rescue of three anglers from Allegany County, plucked from the chilly waters of Lake Ontario on Saturday, credits a fast moving crew, the calmness of those stranded, and modern technology with affecting a successful rescue.
At about 3:30pm Niagara county 9-1-1- received a distress call, via cell phone, from one of the three men indicating their 19 foot fishing boat was taking on water, approximately 3-1/2 miles north of the NYS campsite at Four Mile Creek , where waves were running at about four feet, and the water temperature was 37 degrees.
"Niagara County dispatch contacted with us the coordinates they had gotten from the cell phone. They were able to triangulate that, so we got the position in our chart...and it was as simple as following the dot," said Petty Officer Craig Deats-Cascio of Coast Guard Station Niagara, which is located at the mouth of the Niagara River.
Deats-Cascio was the Coxswain aboard the Coast Guard's 25' platform boat, which with two 225 HP engines, can reach speeds of close to 50 MPH.
"As we approached, it looked as if the boat was right side up, but as we got closer we realized the superstructure we thought it was, was actually three people huddled together on top of the capsized boat," Deats-Cascio recalled.
"They (the stranded boaters) did the right thing with the situation they had," Deats-Cascio told WGRZ-TV. "They stayed with the boat, they stayed together, they huddled up and kept warm, and they were able to give us a good position making it easier for us to locate them," he said.
Asked if the boaters were lucky to have escaped with their lives that afternoon, as they sat soaked on a capsized boat amid a stiff, cold breeze, Deats-Cascio replied, "I think so, yes."
"That day there were actually no other boats we could see...they didn't have a marine radio on board, so their cell phone was their last and only means of getting help," he said.
Deats-Cascio said rescuers immediately tried to discern the condition of those stranded, in part by speaking with them to gauge their coherency, amid the fear of hypothermia.
"They were conscious but not really able to communicate, so we definitely knew it was very serious and we needed to get them back...as soon as possible. I think they were amazed and just glad that we were there, and I think it took a while for it to set in that we were taking them home, and that they were on their way out of there," he said.
The boaters, all from Allegany County, are now identified by the Niagara county Sheriff's Office as Daniel Crowner and Robert Guinnip, both 49 and both from Wellsville, and Bruce Blank, 59, of Andover.
They were all treated and released from area hospitals.
Deats-Cascio said the incident provides a timely reminder for all boaters as the weather begins to warm and more of them head out on the water.
"If you are going to go out, you have to make sure you have a plan. Let people know where you are going, when you plan on coming back, who you are taking with you, and make absolutely sure you have life jackets. The Great Lakes are unpredictable, especially at this time of year, and you never know what might happen," he said.
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