BY ZLATI MEYER
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
Boats used by the Coast Guard to rescue people stranded on ice in the Great Lakes region soon will be plying much warmer waters.
Three of the flat-bottomed air boats, along with 10 crew members from the Coast Guard stations at Belle Isle, the Saginaw River and Marblehead, Ohio, are headed to the Gulf of Mexico to aid in the cleanup and coastal protection efforts in the oil spill resulting from the April 20 explosion of a BP deep-sea oil rig, Lt. Wade Hedinger said Wednesday.
The rig disaster is spewing thousands of gallons of crude into the gulf daily, threatening marine life, waterfowl, coastal marshes and other sensitive ecosystems.
The boats, which have air propellers, can skim water as shallow as 6 inches, so they can crawl up onto ice -- and penetrate the gulf's murky nooks, where oil has collected.
"They can operate in much shallower water and we can get into some shallower water, such a bayous and lagoons," Hedinger said.
Petty Officer William Frank was among the Coast Guard volunteers who headed south with the boats in tow Wednesday to join 29 pollution inspectors and federal on-scene coordinators who were deployed there May 20.
"It was the right thing to do, to help people get some good results out of what's going on down there and helping with the cleanup," the 32-year-old Wyandotte resident assigned to the Belle Isle station said, explaining why he wanted to be a part of this assignment.
An eight-year veteran of the Coast Guard, Frank never has been to the gulf. His tour of duty there will be 30-60 days.
"I think it's a sad thing, a very sad situation," he said. "A lot of volunteers are going down there. ... It's our waterways, and I'm hoping we get good outcomes out of this."
Contact ZLATI MEYER: 313-223-4439 or firstname.lastname@example.org