Stu­dents, teach­ers res­cued af­ter boat sinks in Bay

Dorchester Star - - Regional - By TR­ISH MCGEE pm­cgee@thekent­coun­tynews.com N‘s Karen N Karen Karen N Lady Ka-Kee, Karen N

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.

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