Search to continue for fourth fisherman after capsizing on Potomac
Two men were found dead, one was rescued and another was still missing Sunday, a day after a fishing boat capsized on the Potomac River.
Two men were found dead, one was rescued and another was still missing Sunday, a day after a fishing boat capsized on the Potomac River amid choppy waters stirred by winds as high as 54 miles per hour.
Gusts toppled trees, flipped traffic lights and caused widespread power outages in the Baltimore area. Occupants of at least two other boats — one near Fort Howard in Edgemere and the other on the Chesapeake Bay — had to be rescued over the weekend.
It’s not yet known what led the 30-foot powerboat to capsize Saturday on the Potomac near St. Mary’s County.
A spokeswoman for the Maryland Natural Resources Police said the mild weather worsened quickly as the wind picked up, making rescue efforts difficult. If a fourth fisherman Natural Resources Police are still searching for is found dead, spokeswoman Candy Thomson said, it would be the deadliest single boating incident in Maryland this year. Police planned to resume their search this morning.
“Conditions were absolutely horrible,” Thomson said. “Three-foot seas, gusts to 45 miles an hour. And of course it’s pitch-black.”
One of the four men on the fishing boat texted his wife around 4 p.m. that the group was returning to Combs Creek Marina in St. Mary’s County. Police and the Coast Guard picked up a mayday call around 5 p.m., Thomson said.
Natural Resources Police, Coast Guard, state police and personnel from nearby Naval Air Station Patuxent River searched for the men until about 3 a.m. Sunday, then resumed the search at dawn.
The survivor was spotted clinging to the hull of the boat by a helicopter. The bodies of the two victims were found later Sunday morning.
Police identified the survivor as Jason Downing, 39, of Mechanicsville. They said he was taken to MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital, where his condition was not known.
The two victims were identified as Gregory Moore, 55, of Mechanicsville, the owner of the boat; and William Edelen Jr., 48, of White Plains.
Natural Resources Police and the Coast Guard were still searching waters south of Breton Bay for Roger Grissom, 52, of Hughesville.
The men were participating in the 24th annual Chesapeake Bay Fall Classic fishing tournament when their boat capsized. Tournament organizers called off the last day of the event Sunday because of the weather. The organizers could not be reached for comment.
Thomson said Natural Resources Police will investigate whether the fishing boat had any mechanical problems before it capsized. But she said the high winds that picked up in a short period of a time were “difficult conditions for any boater.”
Sixteen people have died in boating incidents in Maryland this year. The pace is down from 21 last year, a 20-year high.
There were at least two other water rescues over the weekend. A sportfishing boat rescued a man in the Chesapeake Bay on Saturday after his sailboat capsized, according to Natural Resources Police. Baltimore County firefighters rescued two people Sunday from a sailboat that ran aground near Fort Howard in Edgemere, fire officials said.
The National Weather Service reported gusts around the Baltimore area Sunday of more than 45 miles per hour, including a 54-mph gust in Anne Arundel County near Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.
The weather service issued a gale warning for Maryland waters and a fire watch for Central and Southern Maryland and Northern Virginia. The watch means fires could spread quickly under the weather conditions.
A storm in the Northeastern United States and high pressure over Michigan have combined to cause the high winds, weather service meterologist Kevin Whitt said. He said the gusts likely won’t calm down until Tuesday night.
“It isn’t until we get into Tuesday night, Wednesday that the high pressure in Michigan works its way into our area,” causing the winds to calm, he said.
Firefighters put out at least two brush fires in the area Sunday, including one near the Bel Air Bypass and one in the 3800 block of Manor Lane in Ellicott City.
Thousands in the Baltimore area lost power Sunday. At 11 p.m., Baltimore Gas and Electric crews had restored power to more than 9,800 in Baltimore, 10,700 in Baltimore County, 3,200 in Harford County and 2,000 in Anne Arundel.