On a recent Saturday morning, five men walked out on ice-covered Muskegon Lake in Michigan for a little ice fishing. But they faced a real catch! Around noon, they noticed changes in the ice and headed back to shore. Two of them fell through the melting ice. When they called 911, they were told to stay in place until help arrived.
Fortunately, that help arrived in the form of North Muskegon Fire Department’s Neoteric rescue hovercraft and their highly trained first responders, who have been using the hovercraft for ice and water rescues for three decades.
Even though the U.S. Coast Guard also responded to this emergency, the USCG usually responds to ice rescues with a team of four who go out on the ice on foot – while the North Muskegon Fire Department’s hovercraft safely speeds upwards of 60 mph across solid or broken ice, keeping first responders above the danger, not in it.
Ice fishermen flock to the frozen waters of Muskegon Lake during winter. And yes, the Muskegon first responders advise, it may be time to “consider the ice fishing season over,” and “time to break out the boats” – but a hovercraft is equally critical as a water rescue tool as it is an ice rescue tool.
The North Muskegon Fire Department recognized that early on, and became a pioneer in using hovercraft for ice and water rescue operations. “Our hovercraft have saved more lives than all our fire engines combined. Since 1985, more than 255 people have been rescued from Muskegon area lakes using the hovercraft. More than half of them would have drowned not having the hovercraft as a safe rescue tool,” says Fire Chief Steve Lague.
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