ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The search continues for a missing jet skier off Durand Eastman Beach in Lake Ontario.
The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office had to suspend operations Saturday due to unsafe weather conditions but resumed all except the diving teams Sunday afternoon.
The jet skier was last seen near the coast by the Rock Beach Road community before his jet ski was reported abandoned with the engine still running a little after 10:00 a.m. This occurred when Lake Ontario was under a small craft advisory that can make water conditions very dangerous for boaters and rescue missions difficult.
One of the partnering agencies assisting in the search since Saturday morning is the U.S Coast Guard Rochester Station. Their Chief, Matt Riesberg explains a small craft advisory is issued when winds range from 20-37 mph, which the lake experienced Saturday.
“It’s going to help at chops to the waves and increase the wave heights by four to six feet,” Chief Riesberg said. “But could be a little bigger with a small craft advisory. It makes the weather conditions more extreme and faster with heavier winds.”
This increase in liability and safety concerns is why owners of boat rental marinas like Jordan Alger of South Bay Marina don’t rent out jet skis.
“Difficult to drive — when you’re steering them too, it’s not like a boat,” Alger said. “With a jet ski, you’ve got to turn the handlebars and give it throttle to turn. There’s no rudder underneath it, so if you let off the throttle and you turn, you are not going to turn the jet ski.”
Even in their boating club, South Bay Marina does not allow members to take pontoon boats like these out into Lake Ontario during a small craft advisory.
Heavy winds create waves they can’t handle and the conditions can be worse on jet skis.
“We’ll tell them when we show up it’s a small craft advisory today, so boats are limited to just the bay,” Alger said. “So, you can’t go out to the lake today. You could launch a wave wrong or stuff a wave wrong, capsize a boat, be ejected off the jet ski if you’re on a jet ski.”
While the search continues, the Coast Guard stresses all boaters and jet skiers hitting the lake this Summer have life preservers on board and communicate with people where and when they’re casting off.
“Everybody should always wear a life jacket or floatation device when they’re on their vessels,” Chief Riesberg said. “And then also when people are going out make sure you have a plan and communicate that plan to others so they know where you are.”
State police has also joined the search providing a helicopter to monitor the beach areas for any sign of the missing jet skier. Rochester Fire Department’s Dive team has also been assisting with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office and Coast Guard.
Authorities have not yet released the identity of the missing jet skier or how long he was out on the water and where he was cast off on Saturday morning.