911 Calls Detail Moments Before ‘Vertical Rescue’

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LAKEWOOD, Ohio -- Lakewood firefighters are being hailed as heroes after a boat carrying a family of four capsized in Lake Erie.

Now, newly released 911 calls detail the terrifying moments before the family was rescued near the Lakewood breakwall.

Around 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, a neighbor spotted trouble and called 911.

The caller told dispatchers, "I'm looking over my back fence on Erie Cliff in Lakewood. It looks like there's about four people in a boat that's taking on water."

The dispatcher asked, "Are they waving their arms or anything, do they look in distress?"

"The top of the boat is at water level right now. Yes, the engine stopped. They're all standing up, trying to figure how to... yeah, they're waving their arms now," the caller stated.

Because of high waves and shallow water, the Lakewood Fire Department used ropes and pulleys to do a “vertical rescue.”

One by one, firefighters pulled each family member to safety from atop a 70 foot cliff.

“Sometimes you're put into a position where it's not easy to get everybody out. Your main concern is making sure the victim is not injured any further, so you want to take your time getting them over the edge that gets them out safely as possible,” said Lakewood firefighter Ryan Birth.

The family was wearing life jackets and did not suffer any serious injuries.

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