The two teens had been thrown from a personal watercraft and were stranded for about an hour before a Waukegan-based Coast Guard helicopter spotted them and a Wilmette-based Coast Guard rescue boat brought them to shore.
Yet, the Obama administration has called for the closure of the seasonal Waukegan facility in its 2013 budget request, which to us is quite short-sighted. The administration’s plan to close the Waukegan facility and dispatch helicopters from Traverse City, Mich., at the northern tip of the state, creates a dangerous time delay for similar search and rescue missions.
The Winnetka incident, in which the girls were already suffering from hypothermia when they were rescued, highlights the essential services the Coast Guard choppers provide for the thousands of Illinoisans who swim and boat in Lake Michigan each summer. Indeed, U.S. Sens. Mark Kirk and Dick Durbin, along with 10th District Congressman Robert Dold, understand the critical nature of the big lake rescues and are pushing the White House to keep the facility afloat at the Waukegan airport.
Last month, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted on a Department of Homeland Security funding measure that included language denying the president’s request to close the Coast Guard air facilities in Waukegan and Muskegon, Mich.
If only the Obama administration would see beyond dollars and cents, reconsider this misguided closure plan and look at the lives which will be saved with crews close by where there is heavy boat traffic and significant search and rescue requirements.