On Thin Ice: Coast Guard rescues man on St. Joseph River

Posted at 8:14 PM, Jan 11, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-11 20:14:56-05

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. —  The U.S. Coast Guard reminds us the ice is not safe to stand on right now. And one man got a reminder of that the hard way early Thursday morning in Benton Harbor.

“We got a report of a man laying on the ice on the St. Joseph River, underneath the Bicentennial Bridge,” says Lazaro Lopez – Executive Petty Officer for the U.S. Coast Guard station in Saint Joseph.

The call came in at 1:58 a.m.

Lopez tells FOX 17, “Two bystanders were walking their dog, and noticed the man and called 911. Berrien County Dispatch toned out (dispatched) the fire departments (in St. Joseph and Benton Harbor), and us.

“And after arriving on the scene, we observed the ice was very porous, and had characteristics of ‘fast ice’.  That’s when you get a quick layer of ice over the top because of the ambient temperature, but it’s not frozen all the way through. So, our guys deployed to the man. But two of the (Coast Guard) men fell through the ice. However, there were no injuries.”

Lopez says the workers were able to reach the victim, who was hypothermic and “complaining of back pain.” The St. Joseph Fire Department lowered a dock board to the Coast Guard crew, which put the patient onto the backboard, and then onto a Marsars (ice-rescue) sled.

“We were able to transit safely back to land, to Medic 1 (ambulance).”

The man, whose name wasn’t released, was taken to Lakeland Memorial Hospital in St. Joseph for treatment. The Coast Guard says the victim was in the “early stages” of hypothermia when taken to the hospital.