Two dead af­ter boat overturns

Sur­vivor found on hull hos­pi­tal­ized; fourth man re­mains miss­ing in Po­tomac River

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By JOHN WHAR­TON jwhar­ton@somd­news.com

Two South­ern Maryland men died, a Me­chan­icsville man was res­cued af­ter an over- night search, and a fourth pas­sen­ger from their boat re­mained miss­ing this week amid high winds and waves in the lower Po­tomac River.

The group was less than 15 min­utes away from shore south of Leonard­town late Satur­day af­ter­noon,

ac­cord­ing to Maryland Nat­u­ral Re­sources Po­lice, when a text mes­sage that the group was com­ing home was fol­lowed by a may­day call for help. Two hours af­ter the U.S. Coast Guard and a Maryland State Po­lice he­li­copter crew be­gan their search, a dis­patch re­port states, a call to 911 in St. Mary’s that night prompted the county’s vol­un­teer fire­fight­ers to also launch their res­cue rafts and boats.

The bod­ies of 55-yearold Me­chan­icsville res­i­dent Gre­gory Moore, the boat’s owner, and Wil­liam Ede­len Jr., 48, of White Plains were found at about 9 a.m. Sun­day, off White Point Beach, au­thor­i­ties re­port, not far from where 39-yearold Ja­son Eric Down­ing was lo­cated on the over- turned hull of the 32-foot Reel In­tim­ida­tor boat. The Coast Guard re­port- ed at day­light’s end that a 279-square-mile search by boat and from the air for 52-year-old Roger Gris­som of Hugh­esville had been sus­pended.

The group had left Combs Creek Ma­rina in Comp­ton to par­tic­i­pate on Satur­day in the 24th an­nual Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Fall Fish­ing Classic, a nat­u­ral re­sources po­lice spokesper­son said.

“At 4 p.m., one of the men texted his wife that they were com­ing back in,” Candy Thom­son, the state agency spokesper- son said, and a may­day ra- dio sig­nal came from the ves­sel about an hour later. Coast Guard crews from St. Ini­goes launched a re­sponse boat, and a Coast Guard he­li­copter crew from North Carolina also took off, a re­lease states, along with as­sis­tance by Maryland State Po­lice.

“They didn’t have much to go on,” Thom­son said, to re­spond to the call of a boat tak­ing on wa­ter. “The ini­tial ef­fort didn’t turn up any­thing,” she said.

The wives of the men re­ported at 8 p.m. that they were past due get­ting home, Thom­son said, and a county dis­patch log states that call led to the fur­ther re­sponse by the state wildlife of­fi­cers, Patux­ent River Naval Air Sta­tion and St. Mar y’s fire and res­cue vol­un­teers.

At about 6:30 a.m. Sun­day, the Coast Guard re­ports, its he­li­copter crew spot­ted the over­turned boat, off shore of White Point Beach, with some­one on top of the hull. Down­ing was flown to MedS­tar St. Mary’s Hos­pi­tal, and he was ad­mit­ted for treat­ment from his overnight ex­po­sure to the rough seas and cold wa­ter.

Capt. Brian Rathgeb of the state agency said Sun­day af­ter­noon at a press con­fer­ence in Piney Point that all four men on the boat had been wear­ing life jack­ets, and that Down­ing was alert and talk­ing to in­ves­ti­ga­tors.

Un­sea­son­ably warm and calm weather abruptly ended Satur­day af­ter­noon through­out most of Maryland, in­clud­ing on the river.

“Con­di­tions were just ghastly,” Thom­son said, as well for the searchers, who dealt with 40 mph wind gusts, three­foot seas and wa­ter tem­per­a­tures in the 50s. She noted the miss­ing boat’s prox­im­ity to shore when the calls for help be­gan.

“They were so close,” she said, “so close.”

The three-day tour­na­ment is spon­sored by the Maryland Salt­wa­ter Sport Fish­ing As­so­ci­a­tion, the nat­u­ral re­source po­lice spokesper­son said.

STAFF PHOTO BY JOHN WHAR­TON

Capt. Brian Rathgeb of the Maryland Nat­u­ral Re­sources Po­lice briefs re­porters in Piney Point on Satur­day’s fa­tal boat­ing ac­ci­dent.

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