From the South Milwaukee Fire Department …
Earlier today, the SMFD Rescue Boat, Guardian II, was requested by the Oak Creek Fire Department to respond for a report of a pilot-less boat going in circles in Lake Michigan in the area of the WE Energies Plant.
While responding, the SMFD Rescue Boat was made aware of a private fishing boat that rescued an adult male out of the lake who was not wearing a PFD and hanging onto a floating chair. The boat was, in fact, circling without anyone on board. The pilot of the boat had fallen overboard and the boat continued to operate.
The boater estimated he was in the 48 degree water for approximately 5-10 minute before being rescued by the fisherman. To say he is a lucky man is quite the understatement.
Once contact was made with the fishing boat that rescued him, the boater was brought onboard the SMFD Rescue Boat and transported to Bender Park where he was transferred to the care of awaiting OCFD EMS personnel.
While this boat probably didn’t require one due to its age, as of April 1st, 2021, the U.S. Coast Guard implemented a new engine cut-off switch law that applies to operators of recreational boats built after January 2020 that are less than 26 feet long. Operators of these vessels must now have and use an engine cut-off switch (ECOS) and associated lanyard (ECOSL) while out on Federal waters such as Lake Michigan. Unfortunately, in this case, the new law does not apply if the boat was made before 2020 and does not have a cut-off switch.
After transferring care of the boater to OCFD, the crew from the US Coast Guard USCG Sector Lake Michigan requested the assistance of SMFD in securing the pilotless boat. Eventually, after attempting several maneuvers to control the boat, a member of the USCG had to jump into the boat and take control of it.
The SMFD has said it before and will continue to say it . . . PLEASE RESPECT THE WATERS OF LAKE MICHIGAN, WEAR YOUR PFD, AND PRACTICE SAFE BOATING !!