PORT CLINTON - For Capt. Steve Rose of the Miller Boat Line ferry William Market, the crash landing two months ago of a small airplane into Lake Erie put to good use the water-rescue practice he and his crew had performed countless times over the years.
"I just thought, 'We need to get over there and get the people out of the water,'•" Captain Rose recounted Friday after a ceremony at the Miller line's Catawba Island Township dock. State officials presented him and his three crew with a plaque-mounted certificate of appreciation.
"Your rapid assessment, decision-making, and response resulted in multiple lives saved," Pamela Dillon, chief of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Watercraft, told Mr.
Rose and deckhands Jacob Market, Bernie Wise, and Greg Johnson, who collectively plucked four people from the water near the Lime Kiln Dock in Put-in-Bay on Aug. 13.
"I just want to thank my crew," the captain said. "They really hopped into action. All the training we do really paid off in the end."
Captain Rose's ferry had just left the Put-in-Bay dock when they saw the 1977 Cessna 210 ditch in the water a short distance away. Its pilot and three passengers, all from Michigan, emerged shortly thereafter, and Captain Rose brought his vessel alongside so his crew could toss a life ring and life jackets and help them up a ladder onto the ferry.
Put-in-Bay emergency-services personnel checked them out on shore, and except for one bruised shoulder, there were no injuries.
"This happened like that," Mr. Market said with a snap of his fingers. "We didn't have time to think. It was all just natural instinct."
"We just did what we were supposed to do," said Mr. Johnson of Port Clinton. "We had them out of the water in under a minute-thirty."
Witnesses said the plane sank in two minutes.
Captain Rose, a lifelong resident of Catawba Island Township, said the incident was the first "live" rescue of his 13-year career with Miller, but he and his crews' training had included man-overboard drills every week or two over that time.
Scott Market, the Miller line's vice president, said he watched the plane go down while taking tickets at the Put-in-Bay dock, and credited the pilot with a smooth emergency landing.
"He did a real nice job of setting her down so everyone could get out," Mr. Market said. The whole incident, he said with thanks to God, "fell right into place just like we practiced," and Friday's ceremony was a proud day for the Miller boat line.
No one from the aircraft attended the event Friday. The Ohio Highway Patrol identified the plane's pilot and owner as Mark Neal, 61, of Westland, Mich., and passengers as Michael Reddy, 67, also of Westland; and Ashley Braunstein, 21, and Amber McClure, 21, both of Detroit.
The plane was flying from Canton, Mich., to Put-in-Bay, when its engine failed on final approach. Mr. Neal told investigators he tried twice unsuccessfully to restart it, then retracted the aircraft's landing gear before hitting the water.
The aircraft was salvaged from the water several days later. A National Transportation Safety Board investigation continues.
Captain Rose said the certificate of appreciation will be displayed in the Miller line's Put-in-Bay offices.
The natural resources department used the occasion to present Market family members with a certificate commemorating 105 years of Miller Boat Line ferry service between Catawba and the Lake Erie Islands. The Markets bought the ferry company from the Miller family in 1978.
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