Here is the email I received from Acting South Milwaukee Fire Chief Joe Knitter about yet another Lake Michigan water rescue on Wednesday …
In what seems to be an all-too-often occurrence lately, the SMFD Rescue Boat was placed into operation again last night in what I can truly say was a rescue situation with a very successful outcome. At approximately 10:26 PM, SMFD received a call from SMPD Lt. Cary Fischer requesting assistance in locating three missing persons who had left Bender Park earlier in the evening on a Personal Water Craft. SMPD was notified when one of their officers was in the process of clearing out Grant Park at the Main Beach and came across the missing boaters wife who was frantically searching for them along the coastline. SMFD deployed their boat at approx. 10:36 PM and was in the process of scanning the shoreline between the SM Yacht Club and Bender Park with floodlights, our handheld thermal imaging camera, and the FLIR (Forward Looking Infra Red) system on the boat when they encountered the distressed watercraft with two of the occupants, the 36 y/o father and 13 y/o child, in the water and the 9 y/o child still aboard the watercraft. The 13 y/o and 9 y/o both were wearing personal flotation devices (PFD) while the father was not. All three occupants were brought aboard the rescue boat and the watercraft was successfully towed into Bender Park. The boaters were reunited with their family and turned over to the OC Fire Department to be medically evaluated.
It is my opinion that these boaters were extremely lucky that all of the circumstances aligned to provide for their rescue. Fortunately for them, the water temperature in Lake Michigan has increased by ten degrees over the past few weeks due to the warmer-than-usual air temperatures and lack of rain. At the time of the rescue, the water temperature was approx. 71 degrees. Experience has taught us that exposure to water temperatures like that for periods in excess of three hours can be detrimental to a persons physical well being and adversely affect their ability to function and perform physical tasks. One can only imagine what the outcome would have been had the circumstances not aligned and they had not been located.
The US Coast Guard was notified of our response, however, they did not deploy any of their boats. Once again, the teamwork between SMPD and SMFD paid off for a successful end to what could have been a tragic story.