2019-02-09 / News

Katmai Bay Aids in Medical Call

When the ferries have stopped for the winter and the planes aren’t running because of poor weather, medical emergencies can become high-tension situations here. But this winter, the Coast Guard helped with a medical evacuation, as the ice cutter Katmai Bay happened to be nearby when teacher Susan Bennett needed medical attention.

Tuesday, January 29, the Katmai Bay broke ice on its way into the harbor to retrieve Mrs. Bennett from the end of Star Line’s main dock, the former Union Terminal Pier. She was taken to St. Ignace and is doing much better, following medical attention. While the incident caused more attention than Mrs. Bennett wanted, she is grateful that so many came together to get her help.

“The one good thing about this is that I think it brings a little piece of mind to everyone, knowing that you can get off of the Island in case of an emergency when the weather isn’t cooperating,” she told the Town Crier. “It was amazing the number of people who came to help me out without a moment’s hesitation and how many people worked together to get me off of the Island. I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of kindness and concern from this incredible community.”

Mrs. Bennett teaches secondary mathematics at Mackinac Island Public School. She lives on the Island during the school year and in St. Ignace during the summer.

Paramedic Sam Barnwell was instrumental in helping get Mrs. Bennett off the Island, despite the bad weather that prevented even medical helicopters from flying in from Traverse City. Through his work with Mackinac Marine Rescue, which participated in more than 20 emergency medical runs in the Straits of Mackinac area last summer, Mr. Barnwell has developed close working relationships with Coast Guard members at Sault Ste. Marie, St. Ignace, and elsewhere. Working with the staff at the Mackinac Island Medical Center, including Dr. Gregory Hessler, Mr. Barnwell requested the Coast Guard help with the medical evacuation. The Mackinac Island Fire Department also helped get Mrs. Bennett safely to the cutter.

“It just happened to be that the Katmai Bay was on its way to the Soo and was in the Straits Area,” he said. “It truly was just passing by. If they hadn’t been there, we would have been waiting for the weather to be where we could fly.”

Once Mrs. Bennett was picked up, the cutter broke ice on its way to Coast Guard Station St. Ignace. There, Coast Guard members from the station and cutter Biscayne Bay, which is laid up for repairs, shoveled the dock so the ambulance could get close enough to the ice breaker to collect Mrs. Bennett.

The incident was a coordinated effort for many agencies, Mr. Barnwell said, that worked to get Mrs. Bennett the medical attention she needed.

“A lot of stars aligned the right way at the right time,” he added.

Return to top

Click here for digital edition
2019-02-09 digital edition