(NNCNOW.com) --- A man who was stranded on an ice floe for about six hours in the St. Louis River may owe his life to an air boat.
The air boat has proven critical in ice rescues.
Someone heard the cries for help from a 41-year-old man stranded in the middle of the St. Louis River, and alerted authorities just before 3 a.m. Monday.
"He was actually floating on the ice and water was surrounding him,” Battalion Chief Vern Johnson of the Superior Fire Department said. “Apparently he had been in the water at some point or another."
From the 28th Street boat landing, the man was 600-700 yards away.
After making vocal contact with the man, rescuers used the St. Louis County Rescue Squad Airboat to reach him quickly.
"We were able to put our rescuers in this boat,” Tom Crossmon, Captain of the Rescue Squad said. “It's safer for us and it's safer for the person we are rescuing."
Rescue Squad Captain Tom Crossmon says the airboat is used about 12 times a year for ice rescues.
"After we bring somebody in that was possibly in the water, we can bring them inside of a heated cab, so we don’t have the issues of them being out in the open air after being wet,” he said.
Last Monday, the air boat was used to ferry an injured woman to medical help.
"We were able to get to her where we couldn't because of snow conditions on shore and ice conditions,” Crossmon said. “The airboat proved to be the answer."
The airboat was also used to rescue more than 50 people during June's historic floods.