Coast Guard frees 15 from boat on Mich. river

A middle-of-the-night cellphone conversation with a 13-year-old girl led the Coast Guard to a pontoon boat grounded in a western Michigan river, where crew members used an inflatable ice skiff to rescue 15 people, 13 of them deaf and four lacking medicine they needed, a spokesman said Sunday.
AP Wire
Jul 7, 2014


The pontoon, stranded for hours, had only two life jackets and no marine radio, Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Christopher Yaw told The Associated Press from the agency's Ninth District office in Cleveland.

The girl's maturity and the Coast Guard members who used "outside-of-the-box thinking" to shuttle the passengers to safety three at a time with a craft designed for winter use after a salvage boat couldn't reach the pontoon in shallow water helped bring the dangerous situation to a safe conclusion, Yaw said.

"To use the inflatable skiff, that was some excellent thinking on their part," he said. "The 13-year-old stayed calm and collected through the situation."

The Coast Guard declined to give the names, ages or hometowns of the people on the pontoon.

According to a Coast Guard statement, the crowded 16-foot boat went out on the river about 5 p.m. Friday. At some point, it became grounded in the river's Lloyd's Bayou, near Grand Haven and about five miles from Lake Michigan.

At about 1:15 a.m. Saturday, the private salvage boat Tow Boat US radioed the Coast Guard, saying it had gotten a call for help from the pontoon boat but wasn't able to reach the caller again, the Coast Guard said.

A Coast Guard "watchstander" in Milwaukee called the girl's cellphone and determined the pontoon's location, Yaw said.

The tow boat headed to the scene but found the pontoon grounded in water too low for a direct rescue attempt, Yaw said. Meanwhile, a Coast Guard vehicle on land drove near the site, and the crew decided to launch the inflatable skiff from shore, he said.

Coast Guard personnel combined skillful communications with "training and rescue techniques that are uncommon to summer operations to successfully bring everyone aboard the pontoon to safety," Petty Officer 2nd Class Greg Mattson in Grand Haven said in a statement.

It took about an hour to shuttle the passengers to the Tow Boat US, which then took them to the Holiday Inn Grand Haven, where emergency medical personnel evaluated them, Yaw said. He said he didn't have details on the passengers' conditions but believed there were no serious problems.

Three of the people who lacked their medicine suffered from asthma. The fourth needed medicine related to a recovery from a car accident.

Yaw said the pontoon boat emergency shows the value of having a marine radio, even on inland bodies of water, and of making sure that personal flotation gear is used, not just stored somewhere on the boat.

"It's generally recommended that you not only have enough life jackets on board but that you wear them," he said.



Captains Mess.


Might be in middle of the night for you, but many people are 3rd shift people and sleep all day, glad everyone is safe !!


The interview on Good Morning America noted that they only had 2 PFD's on board. It's very unfortunate people don't take boating more serious. You can go to Walmart and buy a cell phone and get 30 minutes of training, or you can buy a boat and have no clue what you're doing and put people in harms way. Great job to the little girl who took control of the situation.


No word on citations? Overloaded-boat and lack-of-pfd's come to mind


Thousands of boats in GH this past holiday weekend and only 1 incident of an uniformed boater unable to correct their mistake without help from the Calvary....not too bad.

I'd say this industry is regulated enough. If the safety police want to mandate marine radios in boats then, be sure to include Kayaks in this regulating frenzy, as well.

Where was the Sheriff Patrol all this time? I suppose they were too busy spot checking everyone else on Spring Lake and in the Channel while writing gotcha' citations than, to notice or patrol "all" areas. How can someone sit stranded on an inland waterway until 1:15am with no Sheriff patrol noticing?

I agree with you SLN. Likewise, its equally unfortunate that people don't educate themselves before going into a voting booth, as well. Uniformed voters have no clue as to what they are doing and all of a sudden we have Obama for two and regulations did nothing to stop this tragedy.


These people sound like idiots. I hope the captain is ticketed for operating without adequate safety equipment onboard.


Our President IS an idiot. What do you suggest we do with him? Ticket him, arrest him, or praise him for breaking multiple federal laws on a regular basis and operating without adequate safety for the American people.

Many want to penalize a person that clearly, has learned a lesson and turn a blind eye to another individual that hasn't.


Omg it's Obama's fault that some idiot put handicap people on a boat in Michigan with no safety precautions...thAt's really reaching Evan for bigots! And those uniformed voters, as you call them, just happen to be the majority of voters in this country! Too bad we aren't all as intelligent as you..Lord it's hard to be humble huh? What are you going to do with all that hate in couple years when he is retired!..


I have to say.... I agree with ya, dyankee!


Seriously, since some of this was my family I am glad to know that they are safe regardless of what they did or didn't have. And the snide comments that have been made show how ignorant people can still be. The parents of the 12 yr old who took control of the situation are both deaf. They have raised my niece to be a proud and responsible young lady and I am proud of the actions she took to get them all help and home to safety. Remember she is 12, can hear and she can READ!!! Some of you should be ashamed of yourselves. Thank You to the Grand Haven Coast Guard! Can't wait to see you all at the festival this year! God Bless you all for all you do!

Michigan 49417

Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Personal attacks, Personal information, and Libel and defamation.

Barry Soetoro

That explains a lot. Thank you for the summary.

Barry Soetoro

How in the name of Sam Hill did the mods get all that from that mess?


They decided to start clamping down on all the poor grammar and spelling errors around here by going after the illiterate commenters first. They'll address their own employees constant stream of gaffs once they're done here. :-S


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