Little did I know on Sunday afternoon, while boating around the Niagara river with my boys celebrating Father’s Day, that earlier that morning one of my old NCOs, now an officer, LT Postle was helping rescue a stuck Park Police boat. The whole rescue of the four teenage boys before they went over the Falls was pretty big news in Western New York, so many people knew about it.
But I wonder how many know about this story and how some National Guard soldiers (and Dad’s) came in to work because it was the right thing to do.
Read the whole story below at http://dmna.state.ny.us/news/news.php?id=1308591419
NIAGARA FALLS— New York Army National Guard Staff Sgt. James Lentz planned to spend Father’s Day morning, June 19, sleeping in before spending the day with his wife JoAnne and four young kids.
But early Father’s Day morning, the six foot, four inch tall, Hamlin, N.Y. resident was hanging upside down out of a CH-47 helicopter with his head two feet above the raging Niagara River, just 1,000 feet upstream from the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, trying to get a hook on a stuck motorboat.
Lentz’s Father’s Day flight got its genesis more than 24 hours earlier when four teenagers went boating in the Niagara River. Their motor failed and they were swept downstream towards Horseshoe Falls (the name of the Canadian side of Niagara Falls) where the boat grounded. New York State Park Police were able to rescue the teens.
But after retrieving the teens’ vessel the Park Police boat ran aground too. The two-man crew was airlifted off by a Canadian helicopter, but the boat was stuck just above the falls.
New York State Office of Parks and Recreation officials worried that the boat would be swept over the falls, damaging the natural wonder and interfering with navigation. A private salvage company wanted more than $100,000 to retrieve the steel-hulled motor boat, so state officials turned to the New York Army National Guard.
Planning for the mission began when Col. Mark Burke, the State Aviation Officer called instructor pilot Capt. Eric Fritz, a veteran pilot with Detachment 1 of Company B, 3rd Battalion, 126th Aviation. The unit flies CH-47 Chinooks out of the New York Army National Guard’s Rochester flight facility.
Fritz, a Webster, N.Y. resident who grew up Amherst, N.Y. was in his old hometown that Saturday for a social engagement. He immediately drove out to Goat Island, the New York State Park that straddles Niagara Falls, for a look at the problem.
When he got there Fritz called Lentz, a veteran flight engineer for the unit, and the two began planning the mission.
Their challenge was to get a helicopter above the stuck boat and get a hook onto hoisting points installed on the bow and stern of the Park Police vessel. Then they would either tow or lift the boat onto Goat Island.
Once the two decided the mission was doable, Fritz called Burke, who got final approval from the Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Patrick Murphy.
It was a good mission, said Brig. Gen. Renwick Payne, the New York National Guard’s Director of Joint Staff. The Guard could save New York money and help another state agency while getting valuable training for its aviation Soldiers, he explained.
The mission had to be done early when water flow over the falls is reduced. During the night water is diverted from the river into hydroelectric reservoirs and canals on both sides of the falls.
So at 4:30 a.m. on Father’s Day, Lentz, Fritz and four other crewmen -Chief Warrant Officer 4 Thomas Zimmerman, an instructor pilot; Sgt. 1st Class John Bobeck, flight engineer; Staff Sgt. Stanley Bagrowski, crew chief and 1st Lt. Benjamin Postle, a pilot slated to act as the eyes on the ground -were at the Rochester flight facility.
The team arrived at Goat Island just before 7 a.m. and after dropping off Postle-to watch the maneuver from the ground-they went into action.
Col. Mark Stryker, the commander of the 42nd Combat Aviation Brigade and a New York State Police helicopter pilot in civilian life, was in the area in his State Police helicopter providing an aerial set of eyes as well.
Fritz and Zimmerman flew the helicopter just above the stuck boat and then went into a hover….