ALEXANDRIA BAY — First responders rescued a man Saturday morning who crawled to the top of his sinking boat after it flipped and broke through the ice of the St. Lawrence River.
Firefighters from Clayton to Watertown gathered at the hall in Alexandria Bay for the 22nd year of the ice fishing derby.
The ice was thin, so the Clayton department brought its airboat in case there needed to be a water rescue. They didn’t think it would be for someone who wasn’t fishing.
But at around 8:14 a.m., the fire department was dispatched to Kring Point State Park, where a boat had flipped in Goose Bay. Fishermen in the derby witnessed the airboat flip.
At first, there was no visual of the man in the boat, so first responders were racing to rescue a trapped man. When they got there and trained binoculars on the flipped boat — it was around 300 yards off shore — the man had crawled to the top, curled into a ball and was wet. The column of air underneath the boat was starting to vent its way out, causing the boat to sink gradually.
“It was a race against time for hypothermia,” said Jared Wagoner, who was captaining the Clayton rescue boat. “Obviously, with the boat being flipped over, it was clear he had been in the water.”
A crew of three joined Mr. Wagoner on the ride out. When they arrived on the scene, he said the boat was only three feet exposed out of the water. But the man was feeling confident he was OK. He even got onto the rescue boat under his own power, Mr. Wagoner said, speculating the man was in his 60s. They had a quick conversation with him to check for injuries, wrapped him in blankets and then took him back to an awaiting ambulance.
Cheryl VanBrocklin, assistant fire chief in Alexandria Bay and EMT, was there to treat the man in the ambulance. She said they removed his wet clothes and covered with warm blankets and warm packs while filling the back of the ambulance with hot air.
“He was alert, he was cold,” she said, “but he wasn’t complaining of any injuries so that’s good.”
EMTs then transported the man to River Hospital to be evaluated for hypothermia.
“Oh, yes,” Ms. VanBrocklin said about whether the man should consider himself lucky. “It was a much better outcome than I ever would have predicted.”
How the boat flipped to begin with is still unclear, but Dave VanBrocklin, the Alexandria Bay fire chief, is just proud of the response from his and neighboring departments.
“With Clayton here on standby for the derby, we had a quick response,” said Mr. VanBrocklin, adding this his department was back to the station within 50 minutes of when they were first dispatched.
Assisting Alexandria Bay the scene included the Clayton Fire Department, Redwood fire, the sheriff’s office, state park police and the coast guard.
How the man crawled to the top of the boat after it flipped is also still a mystery at this time.
“I have no idea,” Mr. VanBrocklin said, “but he’s one lucky son of a bitch.”