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February 22, 2024

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Lake Erie fishermen knew danger, should cover some cost of rescue

A common pastime during the cold winter in the Great Lakes region is to go fishing out on the ice that forms over the lakes. When the proper precautions are taken, and fishermen recognize when it is appropriate to venture on the ice, this can be a rewarding activity. However, it is also a very risky activity that can turn complicated and dangerous fast.

This was the case Saturday, Feb. 7, when 134 fishermen found themselves stranded on a piece of ice on Lake Erie near Oak Harbor. Due to unusually warm temperatures that day, some of the ice began to melt and visible cracks formed. To solve this issue, the fishermen decided to use wooden planks on the ice in order to make their way across the thin ice, in order to travel farther out on the lake.

One person died from a heart attack, and the others were stranded on the ice until numerous rescue crews could reach the fishermen. According to ABC News, the Coast Guard, two sheriff’s departments (the rescue occurred right on the Lucas and Ottawa county lines) and eleven fire departments were called to ensure the rescue of those on the ice.

According to Ottawa County Sheriff Bob Bratton, the cost of the rescue is upwards of $20,000. As of now, the fishermen will not be responsible for paying any of that amount.

It is the duty of these rescue divisions and law enforcement officers to protect those in danger. This is the reason the Coast Guard is giving as to why they are not charging those rescued.

However, in situations such as this, the potentially dangerous situation was avoidable and required an extensive use of resources from numerous departments. It does not seem right that those who took such a risk will be free from financial accountability for their actions.

When someone requires an ambulance, many cities and communities will end up billing the patient or their insurance company for the transportation and services from the ambulance. Even when an uncontrollable, sudden and not preventable medical emergency occurs, someone may be charged for the services required to save their life.

I find it frustrating that in a preventable situation such as this, it is possible that those rescued will not be required to pay for their rescue as a result of insufficient planning or ignoring warning signs of potentially dangerous conditions.

Instead, the community and law offices that are likely already strapped for cash will foot the entire bill. They should require the parties involved to cover some of the cost.

One of the fishermen said the situation was not a dangerous one, and they were in no danger at the time. While this may have been true, they were stranded on floating ice that wasn’t getting any more solid in the warm temperatures and winds.

I can’t help but wonder if the fact that wooden planks were needed to get people across the ice was a bit of a warning sign as well. Maybe I’m just a chicken, but I don’t believe I would risk my safety on a leisurely fishing expedition that required the assistance of planks to get me to the point where I could fish. To me, this shows there was a danger of the ice breaking, and the fishermen knew what they could be getting into.

The situation could have taken a turn for the worse quickly, and it is the responsibility of the rescue departments to prevent people from harm, and that is what they did.

Fishing out on the ice of Lake Erie or similar bodies of water is not illegal, and I wouldn’t say the fishermen should be penalized for doing so in the first place. However, fishing is a recreational activity, and not a necessity in this case.

People should realize their activities can put themselves and others in danger, and should be prepared to take some sort of responsibility in the event of a situation such as this.

These fishermen did not plan on having to be rescued, nor did they plan on the ice breaking. However, they took the risk, and while it wasn’t an intentional incident, it was preventable, and it will likely cause a financial burden for the rescue parties involved.

While covering some of the costs may also burden the fishermen, it was their decision to go out on the ice and attempt to fish, not the rescuers.

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