Sheriff changes policy after Lake Huron death - My29 WFTC Minneapolis-St. Paul

Sheriff changes policy after Lake Huron death

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WORTH TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) -- A Michigan sheriff's department plans to call a local rescue crew for help on future water searches following the recent death of an 18-year-old Detroit-area man who fell off a raft in southern Lake Huron, officials said.
 
Firefighters from Lexington weren't called June 17 because Sanilac County dispatch was under directives for three years not to call them to water rescues due to training concerns, the Times Herald of Port Huron reported.
 
It took about 20 minutes from the time Sanilac County deputies were dispatched to when they launched a rescue boat from Lexington, the newspaper reported. Lexington firefighters said it could have taken them only 5 minutes to get into the water.
 
"I can't say we would have made a difference," Lexington fire Lt. Mike Harder said. "But I can say we would have been there ... sooner."
 
On Friday, Sanilac County Sheriff Garry Biniecki changed the directive. Undersheriff Bradley Roff said the sheriff's concern was with liability if they weren't properly trained. Roff said firefighters hadn't done a 40-hour state Department of Natural Resources marine rescue training course.
 
"We are going to go ahead and send them on all water rescues and the responsibility of their training really does and should rest with their department," Roff said. Several sheriff's deputies have the training, he said.
 
Ikechukwu Onwuzurike of Oakland County's West Bloomfield Township was found about three hours after he was reported missing, and was pronounced dead at the scene. Onwuzurike wasn't wearing a life jacket, authorities have said.
 
The search took place off of Worth Township, about 70 miles northeast of Detroit.
 
Lexington firefighters have responded to water incidents even if they aren't dispatched to them, including the June 17 search. Lexington Village Manager Tom Raymond said the firefighters are insured through the village.
 
"If the sheriff feels we need additional training, I don't have a problem with that, but you can't always operate in fear of being sued," Raymond said.
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