Two boaters were flown to the hospital via Medevac after one fell into the water and the other jumped into the water to help him—causing him to be struck by the boat’s propeller in a chaotic scene.
Maryland Natural Resources Police (NRP) tell Bay Bulletin the boat was apparently anchored off the shoreline when one boater jumped overboard to swim. After that boater drifted from the boat and shouted for help, witnesses told NRP they tossed life jackets and a flotation device to their companion. One person turned on the engine to take the boat to help, while another member of the group jumped overboard to help.
That person was struck by the boat’s propeller, suffering injuries to his back and buttocks area. That’s when the Coast Guard says a good Samaritan rescued the propeller strike victim and the original swimmer near Tolchester Beach, calling for help using VHF Channel 16.
On board that good Samaritan boat, Knot Today Honey, were Chris Hofmann and his son Dalton, a college lacrosse player, heading to Rock Hall for a charity fundraiser. Hofmann tells Bay Bulletin a larger fishing boat waved them down to seek help for a man overboard situation. The emergency turned out to be aboard a 17–18-foot open-bow Key West boat with six men on board, most of whom weren’t fluent English speakers.
Two men were still in the water, the boat was running, and the boat’s captain, suffering wounds from the propeller strike, was slumped at the helm when the Hofmanns got there.
Hofmann recounts, “Dalton threw them lines and secured fenders so we could effectively ‘raft up’ with them so we could try and help. He also pulled one of the two that were in the water onto our boat with a line and a floating cushion. Then he tended the line I secured around the very large man that was unconscious and in the water, while I pulled him around their bow and over to our boat, where it took all the strength we had to hoist his ‘dead weight’ out of the water on to the swim platform.”
When the Hofmann’s called for ehlp on Channel 16, another vessel in the area, charter sailboat Shardana, overheard nd was able to help relay key information like phone numbers and location coordinates from the good Samaritans to the Coast Guard crew trying to locate them.
Thankfully, USCG Station Curtis Bay had a 29-foot Response Boat that happened to be patrolling, and diverted to the scene. The boatcrew found the Hofmanns and the injured boaters about two miles from Tolchester Beach.
The good Samaritans helped transfer the victims to the Coast Guard boat and the boatcrew gave first aid on the way to Tolchester Marina, where Kent County EMS was waiting. The two were taken by Medevac to Shock Trauma in Baltimore.
NRP says this case is a reminder for people swimming off boats in open water, like the Chesapeake Bay, to take precautions. “Tide and current create a very different swimming environment than the one found in a pool. While it may not seem cool, wearing a life jacket when in the water lets you float without effort while still cooling off and enjoying the water,” says NRP Capt. Melissa Scarborough
And the Coast Guard encourages all boaters to keep an emergency radio on board, as it was key to the boaters’ rescue.
“Without the proper equipment onboard we would not have been able to assist the boaters in distress,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Valerie Foreman, the coxswain of the RBS from Coast Guard Station Curtis Bay. “We encourage boaters to not only have working radios onboard their vessels but to also know how to use them in case of an emergency. The use of channel 16 is a critical and efficient way of contacting the Coast Guard in times of distress.”
–Meg Walburn Viviano