Students, teachers rescued after boat sinks in Bay
BLOODSWORTH ISLAND — A package of handwritten thank you notes and Kent School sportswear is being sent to the Dorchester County waterman who pulled 14 fourth-graders and their teachers out of the Chesapeake Bay last week when the vessel they were in struck a submerged object and sank.
Jeremy Shockley, 42, of Toddville, also has received a citation from Gov. Larry Hogan for his response June 1 that helped to avert what could have been a tragedy. Hogan applauded the “incredible heroism” of Shockley.
Meantime, the Coast Guard is continuing to investigate the incident. Petty Officer David Marin confirmed in a telephone interview Tuesday, June 7, that the vessel — the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s — was in a prohibited area just west of Bloodsworth Island, which has been a Navy range for more than 70 years.
Federal law prohibits entry into waters within a halfmile radius on the west side of Bloodsworth. The area is unsafe due to the presence of unexploded ordnance, according to the Coast Guard.
Shockley responded to a distress call from the
captain. He rescued 23 people; all were wearing life jackets, according to a spokesperson for the Maryland Natural Resources Police.
They were transported to area hospitals for treatment of injuries that were said to be non-life-threatening.
The captain of the vessel hit his head on the windshield and may have lost consciousness at some point, according to the preliminary report.
The Kent School students and their six adult chaperones, which included three teachers, were on the second day of a three-day, two-night field trip that the school takes every year as the culminating experience of the lower school’s Bay Studies science curriculum.
It was a land-based trip with boat excursions, said Tricia Cammerzell, a spokesman for Kent School. Base camp for the trip was the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Karen Noonan Environmental Education Center in southern Dorchester County.
Candy Thomson, a public information officer for the NRP, described the as a 40-foot metal-hulled vessel that “looks like a charter fishing boat.”
Shawn Ridgely, 40, was identified as the captain.
Ridgely sent out a mayday call on Channel 16, the standard marine VHF radio channel, at about 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 1 that “we have sunk off Bloodsworth Island,” Thomson reported in a telephone interview June 2.
Responding agencies included the Natural Resources Police, Maryland State Police, Dorchester County EMS and Naval Air Station Patuxent River. Shockley, skipper of the
told investigators that he heard the distress call at about 5:45 p.m. and immediately headed in the direction of the sunken vessel. He was first on the scene, arriving at about 6:30 p.m. to find 23 people holding on to the top of the boat — it sank in about 8 feet of water — and a life raft that was launched before the
went down. After Shockley had pulled everyone out of the water, he headed toward Wingate on the Honga River, according to Thomson.
Before the radio call for help, Ridgely had activated a GPS communication device to let the Coast Guard know of the vessel’s location, Thomson said.
Maryland State Police helicopter Trooper 4 airlifted Ridgely to Peninsula Regional Medical Center, Salisbury, Thomson said. Three students and one adult were transported to Shore Medical Center at Dorchester in Cambridge and everyone else was taken to Shore Medical Center at Easton.
Everyone was treated and released.
The water temperature was 69 degrees at the time of the collision, and the air temperature was 86 degrees, said Thomson. Seas were 1 foot or less and the wind was light, 5 to 10 knots.
Thomson attributed the favorable outcome to the weather, shallow depth of the water and the quick response of Shockley. “When you put 23 people in the water and you get 23 people out of the water, that’s pretty remarkable,” she said.
Cammerzell, the Kent School spokesperson, said the school was in contact with all the students’ families as the emergency unfolded. Parents responded to the hospitals and drove their children home, she said.
The 14 students involved were not in school Thursday, June 2, Cammerzell said.
“Everyone is back at school and conducting business as usual,” Cammerzell wrote in an email Tuesday, June 7.
“We are grateful to everyone involved who ensured such a positive outcome. This includes our teachers and chaperones who instilled a sense of calm among the students and the CBF captain who handled the immediate situation professionally. The actions of these individuals assured a smooth rescue by waterman Jeremy Shockley,” Cammerzell wrote in her email.
“We are very grateful for his fast action and willingness to venture out on his boat without knowing specific circumstances . ... We will remain grateful to he and his crew for years to come. I am sure the students will never forget him.”
Cammerzell said the Kent School community also is thankful for “all the first responders on the scene whose work also contributed to the smoothest possible solution.”
Bloodsworth Island is a former naval gunnery range in the Chesapeake Bay in the southern part of Dorchester County. It is located south of Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge and north of Crisfield.