Fisherman Rescued from Water as Ice Rescue Drills in Barnegat Light Prepare for the Worst Case

Jan 04, 2018
Photo by: Jack Reynolds Emergency personnel practice an ice rescue in Barnegat Light.

Ice rescue practice is getting out there to know and conquer the element before it rears its ugly head – and icy weather now has. The Barnegat Light Volunteer Fire Co. and the Barnegat Light First Aid Squad already had two ice rescue drills in the first two days of 2018 when they were called to respond to a fall from a docked fishing boat on Jan. 2. Fortunately, the victim was quickly pulled from the 40-degree water by co-workers.

That incident at 10:30 a.m. at Viking Village commercial fishing dock was a 911 call when a male fell in the water from the outer dock. The male, whose name was not disclosed, was pulled from the water by fishermen at the dock and treated at the scene by the first aid squad. He was also taken to the hospital to be checked out, and was released, according to first aid and commercial dock spokespersons.

Fellow dock employees and fishermen “all went to the rescue” and “got him out of the water pretty quickly,” said dock general manager Ernie Panacek. “It happened very quickly.”

The accident underlines the hazards that winter elements add to an already dangerous profession.

“It happens,” said Panacek, “but rarely. This incident occurred because of the dangers and hazards that anybody faces around the water and boats when it’s so cold. It’s part of the hazards of working in this environment.

“They were trying to get on the boat to check it out and do some maintenance, and one guy went in.”

The next day, Jan. 3, another ice rescue drill had already been planned in Barnegat Light. The fire company’s water and ice rescue service conducted an afternoon drill with the first aid squad.

“We need to be prepared for any type of rescue,” said Bob Selfridge, who, as a fire department training officer and also newly installed captain of the first aid squad, provided comprehensive cross-training for both agencies.

“We brought in the squad to cover the drill for safety and rehab, but they will also work on cold-water immersion protocols,” Selfridge added, before the crews trekked out on the ice at the end of a local street.

The water in the bay where the rescue practice took place was about 30 degrees; it was closer to 40 degrees in the harbor where the fishing boats were.

Asked how long a person can be immersed in cold water before losing the ability to function, Selfridge provided a chart devised by Minnesota Sea Grant.

At 32.5 degrees F, exhaustion or unconscioiusness can hit in less than 15 minutes, the statistics said. From 32.5-40 degrees F, an immersed body has an estimated 15 to 30 minutes before exhaustion or unconsciousness sets in.

Also taking part in the drill on Jan. 3 were firefighters Nick Lisiewski, John Puskas, Chris Foster and Kyle Anderson, said fire company lieutenant David Voris.

“Our goal is to practice proper safe ice drilling,” Voris summarized, adding that “proper gear, tools and equipment” are vital, and “Station 13 prides itself on training and making sure all equipment is working right.”

— Maria Scandale

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