Water rescue in Eagle Harbor saves canoeist

EAGLE HARBOR — A canoe paddler was rescued in Keweenaw County Sunday afternoon after stormy conditions on Lake Superior prevented him from reaching the safety of the harbor.

According to the Keweenaw County Sheriff’s Office, at approximately 2:40 p.m. deputies were dispatched to Eagle Harbor in response to a report of a person in a canoe out past the bell buoy — a few hundred yards beyond the harbor entrance.

It appeared as if he was having difficulty returning to the safety of the harbor.

A few moments later it was reported that the canoe had sunk and the paddler was in distress.

According to Sheriff Curt Pennala, Eagle Harbor Fire and Medical First Responders were first on scene, and with the aid of bystanders and two private boats, began to search the area around the bell buoy. Due to high winds and seas and lightning, however, they were compelled to return to the dock.

Sheriff’s deputies, on their rescue personal watercraft, continued the search. With the aid of a civilian spotter located in the Eagle Harbor Lighthouse and a private boat with another deputy onboard, the paddler was located.

He was retrieved from the water with the use of the PWC and transported back to the Eagle Harbor Marina, where first responders administered medical attention until Mercy Ambulance arrived. The man, whose identity was withheld, was transported to Aspirus Keweenaw Hospital where he is being treated for severe hypothermia and water intake.

Pennala said the man is local, but his name was not released.

“I don’t think it’s necessary,” he said, “because he will just get shamed by the public.”

Pennala said that thanks to the fast response of the deputies involved, the man is recovering but in good health.

The successful rescue on Sunday brings back the Keweenaw County Sheriff’s Office to its developing search and rescue.

Pennala said there is now a dedicated search and Rescue group that has been meeting once a month.

“Right now,” he said, “we’re working on communication. Once that communication part is up and complete, that group will be up and running to respond to calls.”

Pennala said that some minor changes need to be made at Central Dispatch in Negaunee, such as radios built into the system and things of that nature.

Once that last piece is in place, he said, the search and rescue will have the capacity to be called out as a unit.

Pennala has expressed concern several times in the past year about the county’s increasing need of an organized and trained search-and-rescue team as the Keweenaw becomes increasingly popular to outdoor enthusiasts.

Assisting at Sunday’s rescue was Eagle Harbor Fire and First Responders, Mercy Ambulance, several boaters and an unidentified spotter.


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