LAKEWOOD, Ohio -- A dramatic rescue unfolded on Sunday on the cliffs overlooking Lake Erie. The rescue of a local couple and their two daughters was a delicate combination of brains and brawn, ropes and pulleys.
The family had been out for a ride when their small boat capsized in high waves. Fortunately, all four were wearing life jackets and a man who lives on top of the cliff heard their cries for help. Mark Stockman told Fox 8, "I was in the living room and I heard screams, I thought it was kids outside and I realized that it was just too panicked to be kids playing, so I looked over the cliff and there was an overturned boat, two people hanging on, two other people about a hundred feet away floating in."
The Lakewood Fire Department and the U.S. Coast Guard considered a rescue by boat, but concluded that the waves were too high and the water too shallow near the break wall.
Witnesses say the man who had been at the helm of the boat when it flipped over, suffered through some terrifying moments in the lake.
"He got slammed into the break wall and he was struggling, finally a wave pushed him over the break wall and he was ok," said Stockman.
Montgomery Ward was suffering from hypothermia when he was pulled to safety, but was grateful that he and his family were alive.
Ward told Fox 8,“ unbelievable, great, just unbelievable, everybody came together, I can't thank you guys enough."
Firefighters say the so-called vertical rescue was complicated by the eroded cliff side.
"It's kind of hollowed out from wave action on the bottom, so that makes for a difficult rescue because the rescuer kind of has to put that in his mind on how they're going to get them up over that," said Assistant Fire Chief Darren Collins.
There were some difficult moments as the rescue team struggled to get the couple and their daughters to the top, but thanks to firefighters like Ryan Birth, the whole family survived their ordeal in the lake and the frightening ascent up the side of the cliff.
"Sometimes you're just put in a position where it's not easy to get everybody out, your main concern is making sure that the victim's not injured any further so you want to take your time”, said Birth, “and make sure getting them over the edge that you get them out as safely as possible."
Mark Stockman added, "I’m just glad they made it, because you know, feel pretty helpless until somebody gets here that can help them."