2 firefighters saved from frigid bay while attempting rescue
The firefighters, who were trying to save a stranded ice fisherman, were stuck in an airboat for more than two hours
By Craig Fox
Watertown Daily Times
CHAUMONT, N.Y. — Fire Chief Frederick E. Jackson and firefighter Will Lipczynski went to save a stranded ice fisherman Tuesday afternoon on Chaumont Bay when they ended up having to be rescued themselves.
The two firefighters were stuck in an airboat for more than two hours in the bay’s frigid waters during whiteout conditions and had to be helped back to shore by members of the Clayton Fire Department. They were not injured.
With wind gusts reaching about 40 mph and blowing snow, they went looking for the unidentified ice fisherman, who lost his bearings because of poor visibility and initially could not find his way back to the Chaumont boat launch.
As it turned out, the fisherman got back to shore on his own and didn’t need assistance, said Chief Jackson’s daughter, Assistant Chief Heather R. Jackson.
But the fisherman never notified the Chaumont Fire Department that he no longer needed help.
“We don’t know who he was,” she said. “He was embarrassed and just took off. We don’t know where he went.”
By then, the flooding waters along Independence Point suddenly dropped about 4 feet, leaving the nearly 4-ton airboat stuck on a shoal and unable to move, Assistant Chief Jackson said.
With swirling winds and visibility near zero, the two firefighters and a crew of six in the Clayton Fire Department’s airboat used picks and shovels to dig the stuck vessel out.
They finally got back to the boat launch shortly before 5 p.m. just as it was starting to get dark. It was a frustrating afternoon.
“I’m not very happy at all,” said Chief Jackson, who thanked the Clayton Fire Department for its help.
“Any time, buddy,” he said Justin A. Taylor, captain of Clayton’s maritime company, told him.
Chief Jackson said he saw what he thought was clear ice but turned out to be water.
The fire chief was a bit cold and firefighter Lipczynski ended up with some wet feet, but neither man needed any medical attention. Two ambulances were there just in case.
To locate the stuck boat, Capt. Taylor used his cellphone and a Google app to get the boat’s coordinates and find his two friends, Assistant Chief Jackson said.
Sitting in her heated white pickup truck during the operation, she was joined by her 3-year-son, Noah, and black Labrador, Holland. When they saw the bright lights of the airboat, they knew Chief Jackson was safe.
“Here’s Poppa,” she told the little boy.
When he got back, Chief Jackson assured his grandson he was fine.
The two firefighters got into some warm clothes and then headed back to the fire station.
Copyright 2018 Watertown Daily Times
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