Lakewood, Ohio — The Lakewood Fire Department had a busy weekend helping to rescue not only a lost dog but also two men thrown into a chilly Lake Erie after their vessel capsized while riding the raging Rocky River.
The first call came in on Saturday regarding a dog — lost for a couple of weeks — spotted on the Lake Erie shoreline.
“The dog, which was pretty protected in the cove, was inaccessible from the cliff area,” Lakewood Fire Capt. Gordon Polando said. “Also, the weather was too bad on Saturday night, so on Sunday morning firefighters used an inflatable rescue dinghy to get the canine. Not only had the water calmed down, but there was more light.”
While obviously shaken from the experience, the dog, Aspen — which was fed overnight by onlookers — was reunited with her owner.
Later on Sunday after heavy rains poured from the sky, the Lakewood first responders, as well as Rocky River police officers, were dispatched to the Lake Erie shore regarding two men tossed into the cold water after going for a whitewater rafting-like experience down a rapid Rocky River.
“A couple of guys had gotten down by the mouth of the river near the lake,” Polando said. “Where the river and the lake met there was a lot of turbulence and it tossed them out of their vessel. The current picked up and they weren’t able to turn around.
“They both had lifejackets on, but they did spend close to a half hour in the water. They were pretty lucky there were people down by the lagoons who saw them head out and capsize. They called the police.”
A Rocky River police officer with a visual on the men, who were pushed out about 100 yards past the break wall, vectored in a Coast Guard boat to make the rescue. They were then brought to the shore where the Lakewood Fire Department took them to Fairview Hospital.
“With the cold-water temperature, after 15 minutes or so most people lose their fine motor functions,” Polando said. “They were in the water for a half hour. One gentleman lost his gross motor function. We had to carry him to the squad. The other guy was able to walk, but he was within probably 10 minutes or so of doing the same.”
As for the dangers of boating, canoeing or rafting on a wild Rocky River, Polando said safety-wise it’s not a smart choice.
“I had heard reports from the swift water guys that the river was flowing at over 10,000 cubic feet a minute,” Polando said. “That’s pretty high. It normally runs a couple hundred cubic feet per minute.
“Also, the guys were not properly prepared either. They did have life preservers on, but not wetsuits. So as soon as they went into the water, they were in danger of hypothermia. Just remember, moving water is always dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing.”
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