Susquehanna Hose Co.'s airboat speeds up responses on the Susquehanna Flats. Image: Cheryl Costello, February 2023

One Survivor, One Life Lost after Susquehanna Flats Rescue

A tragic chain of events on the Susquehanna Flats shows just how quickly things can take an unexpected turn on the water. And if it weren’t for a newly-acquired rescue airboat, two lives could be lost instead of one.

It happened Friday evening, April 21 near Fishing Battery Island, an island built up with dredging spoils about two miles south of Havre de Grace, Maryland. It’s a go-to spot for boaters to anchor out and swim.

Recreational boaters say they heard someone calling for help in that area on Friday and discovered a jon boat circling at slow speed. Two people had fallen overboard. The Good samaritan boaters stayed with them while waiting for help to arrive.

Maryland Natural Resources Police tell Bay Bulletin that one of the victims had a medical emergency and as he fell overboard, he pulled the other person into the water. The Susquehanna Hose Company responded with its rescue boat, but couldn’t reach the patient.

That’s when Susquehanna Hose called upon Airboat 5, its new airboat designed for reaching patients in shallow-water emergencies. This is its first year in service.

As Bay Bulletin showed you in February, the all-volunteer fire company recently invested in the Bay’s first emergency response airboat. The airboat helped the patient with a medical emergency onto the rescue boat, which brought the man to a waiting ambulance on shore.

Sadly, Natural Resources Police say the patient later died at the hospital. They are investigating the incident.

As more people head onto the water this spring, safety experts remind boaters to wear life jackets and always use a kill switch lanyard.

-Meg Walburn Viviano