A ferry boat on its way from Pelee Island to Kingsville, Ont., took an unexpected detour on Sunday afternoon to help in a rescue effort.
The Pelee Islander II received a call for help around 4:15 p.m. according to Adeeb Ahmad, public affairs officer with the U.S. Coast Guard. A boat from Sandusky, Ohio, hit a sandbar and sunk near Little Chicken Island, in Canadian waters, he said.
A rescue boat is shown on Lake Erie on Oct. 1. (Justin Lafontaine)
Carl Kuhnke, CEO of Owen Sound Transportation Company, which owns the Pelee Islander II, said the large, 400-person ferry had just left the dock at Pelee Island when it got the call.
"They traced the location... and realized that they were the closest boat in the vicinity. So they hauled up right away, turned around with our passengers and cars on it, and headed straight to the to the incident site," he said.
The ferry sent out a rescue boat, which Ahmad said arrived around the same time as the coast guard. When both rescue boats arrived, the sinking boat was fully submerged, he said.
Kuhnke said the ferry rescue boat stood on standby while the U.S. Coast Guard got the family out of the water, to return them to Sandusky.
He said all nine passengers, which included both adults and children, were thankfully wearing their life jackets.
"It could have been a very different outcome if they had been illegally riding around in that boat," he said, adding that it only took about a minute and a half for the boat to sink.
The Pelee Islander II responded as a boat sank on Lake Erie. (Dale Molnar/CBC)
On the shore, retired auxiliary Coast Guard unit leader for Kingsville and Leamington, Ont., Art Vermette, was listening to a rescue on the search and rescue radio channels.
Vermette said he keeps an ear out for emergencies, in case he can offer help with his personal boat.
"Most Mariners would do the same thing, but for them to take a boat that size and go after [a rescue], that's just huge," he said.