Thursday, September 29, 2011

Rescue at Port Washington in Lake Michigan

Here is the picture of breakwater lighthouse of Port Washington, Wisconsin in eastern shore of Lake Michigan during calm conditions. It is located at the end of the northern breakwater in Port Washington's harbor.

A dramatic rescue story took place under this light recently as reported by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm in Ozaukee Press on Monday, September 26, 2011:
Two men in their 20s who spent hours trapped on the Port Washington breakwater after towering waves began crashing over the wall Monday morning were rescued in dramatic fashion by the Port Washington dive team and Ozaukee County rescue boat about 10:45 a.m.

Photo by Bill Schanen IV
“Lake Michigan can be quite a monster when it rears its ugly head,” Port Washington Fire Chief Mark Mitchell said after the rescue. “We train constantly for this type of situation. I’m very proud of my crew today.”

The incident started when the men went fishing on the breakwater about 4:30 a.m. Monday, Mitchell said.

The weather kicked up after the men were settled on the breakwater. At one point, both men were washed off the breakwater into the water, Mitchell said.

The men told rescuers they clung to rocks at the base of the breakwater for several hours before they were able to get back on the wall and seek shelter at the base of the lighthouse, he said.

Port Washington resident Becca Mulenburg was returning home from Sentry Foods, driving through Upper Lake Park, when she noticed someone at the lighthouse about 7:30 a.m., she said

Mulenburg, who initially thought it was a thrill-seeker, called police about 8:30 a.m.

“It’s because of you that they’re alive,” Police Chief Richard Thomas told Mulenburg.

The dive team and rescue boat both headed to the lighthouse.

Using a small boat, the dive team initially managed to get two divers wearing cold water immersion suits onto the breakwater, but they were washed off. The team quickly recovered the divers, who were unharmed.

On their second attempt, the team got two other divers onto the wall. The divers sprinted down the breakwater to the lighthouse, timing their run to coincide with breaks in the waves.

They reached the two men, place life jackets on them and led them a short distance down the breakwater. There, the rescue boat put its bow against the structure and the men were able to step onto the vessel.

Once on shore, the men were taken by ambulance to an area hospital.

During the incident, the winds were strong, blowing east-northeast, but about midway through the rescue attempts the wind shifted to the southeast and the wave height diminished.

Ray Meyer, captain of the Ozaukee County Water Safety Patrol, said conditions were serious.

“The seas were 4 to 6 feet inside the harbor and considerably larger outside,” he said

It is always heart warming to read a successful rescue story like this one. Bill Schanen IV also reported this case in Ozaukee entitled "Wild lake, daring rescue "with more details including details about the two fisherman being rescued:

Photo by Sam Arendt
Brett T. Hansen, 18, and James H. Schwichtenberg Jr., 19, both of West Bend, were suffering from hypothermia and taken by Saukville and Grafton ambulances to Aurora Medical Center in Grafton, according to Port Washington Fire Chief Mark Mitchell.

Schwichtenberg, who said he had been washed off the breakwater and spent hours in the water and clinging to rocks before climbing back on the wall, also suffered scrapes and bruises, Mitchell said.

“The good Lord must have been on our side today,” he said. “It’s absolutely amazing they survived as long as they did in those conditions, which were the worst I’ve ever seen.”
Yes, indeed, the good Lord is always on our side. God bless them, God bless us all!

By the way, there is no indication of freaque wave in this story. It's just ferocious, raging Lake Michigan in late autumn.

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