Coast Guard Uses Helicopter as Ice Breaker to Clear a Path for Trapped Anglers


In a stunning display of ingenuity, US Coast Guard rescuers off the shore of Holland, Michigan used their helicopter as a makeshift ice breaker to free two trapped anglers earlier this month. According to officials, two anglers in a 16-foot boat on Lake Michigan became trapped on April 11 when strong winds pushed them a mile and a half offshore. The wind also brought in thick chunks of ice that surrounded the boat and rendered the anglers unable to reach land.

“The aircrew arrived overhead at about 11 a.m. to find the fishermen and their 16-foot boat surrounded by a vast ice shelf consisting of large chunks of ice, some 20-30 feet wide and two-feet thick,” stated a press release from the US Coast Guard.

The ice also prevented rescuers from reaching the anglers from the water, so a Dolphin helicopter was dispatched from Air Station Traverse City to airlift the fishermen out of their boat. Unfortunately, once the aircraft arrived, the crew realized that it was impossible to hoist the men up safely because the rotor wash—or air directed downwards by the helicopter’s spinning blades—would likely capsize the anglers’ boat and leave both men in the water. The aircrew lowered a radio down to the fishermen as they considered other options.

While hovering over the ice, the rescuers got an idea. What if they could use the rotor wash to their advantage? The aircrew realized that the rotor wash began to break up the ice formations near the boat, and they decided to clear a path back to shore for the anglers.

“This was definitely the most out-of-the-box case I’ve been involved with.” said Lt. Rocco Franco, one of the pilots of the aircrew. “It’s not very often that our helicopter is used [as] an ice breaker.”

The entire process took about 45 minutes, but both men made it safely back to shore and were in good condition. They were later cleared by the Coast Guard and did not require medical attention. You can watch part of the rescue in the video below.

Video footage from our hoist camera (HoistCam) from the Search and Rescue case on Saturday. An Air Station Traverse City Aircrew responded to a boat that was trapped in ice near Holland, Michigan. The “outside the box” thinking by the aircrew allowed the helicopter to clear wind driven ice away from a path to shore, saving both the vessel and the people onboard.Read about the rescue here:

Posted by U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City on Monday, April 13, 2015

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