Ailing sailor saved in wind and waves
KENT POINT — United Communities Volunteer Fire Department in Stevensville and Natural Resources Police spearheaded the rescue of a man having a diabetic emergency aboard a sailboat in Eastern Bay on Thursday, Nov. 16.
About 6:30 p.m. Thursday, units from the United Communities Volunteer Fire Department were alerted for an unknown marine rescue in the Eastern Bay off Kent Point.
Little information was available initially about the specifics of the exact nature of the emergency, but responding crews knew any response into the bay that evening was going to be a challenge with winds gusting to 24 knots and seas swelling at 4 to 5 feet, said UCVFD public information officer R. Scott Svoboda.
As additional information was relayed to responding crews by the Queen Anne’s County Department of Emergency Services 911 Center, the rescue scenario was becoming more complex by the minute.
Within a minute from the initial dispatch, UCVFD land units were responding to the request for assistance. Only five minutes later, UCVFD Fireboat 9, a 30-foot MetalCraft custom built fire/rescue vessel, deployed from the marina at the Cove Creek Community Center in Romancoke with a crew of four, including three emergency medical technicians and one paramedic, Svoboda said.
After several attempts, the 911 center made cellphone contact with a Tow Boat US operator on the Eastern Bay who was able to provide more details on the emergency unfolding on the water. A 31-foot sailing vessel that lost power was in tow with one person onboard. The man on board the sailing vessel had no marine radio and had lost cellphone communication.
At some point during the tow, the sailboat occupant said he was having a diabetic emergency onboard his vessel, and was getting combative and agitated as described by the towboat operator during his initial distress call to emergency services, Svoboda said.
Due to sea conditions, the tow boat had no safe way to abort its towing operation and help the man, and had to continue to pull the sailing vessel in the rough seas of the Eastern Bay. After about five minutes, all communications with the victim of the medical emergency were lost.
When Fireboat 9 left the marina and encountered heavy and dangerous sea conditions, volunteers requested additional marine resources, initiating a mutual aid response from Talbot County Fireboat 70 (Tilghman Island Volunteer Fire Department) with a crew of seven, Svoboda said. Also en route were assets from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Police.
Within 25 minutes of initial dispatch, UCVFD Fireboat 9 was on location with the vessel in tow, but volunteers had no safe way to board the boat to try to provide aid to the diabetic emergency. Fireboat Officer in Charge, Deputy Chief Rick Ringenback decided both Fireboat 9 and a Natural Resources Police vessel would escort the boat in tow into Kent Point Marina to land units awaiting the man onboard.
As the emergency situation moved toward Kent Point, sea conditions worsened, and due to the sailboat’s sail being in the partially up position, the towboat operator determined he could not control the boat enough to make it into the marina, Svoboda said. That plan was aborted, and a patient transfer had to be made on the bay.
All vessels changed their course due east in an attempt to find calmer waters to make the patient transfer, he said. After proceeding about a mile, the bay waters subsided slightly and a difficult patient transfer was made onto UCVFD Fireboat 9 by fire personnel and Natural Resources Police officers for treatment and transport to awaiting land-based medical units.
The Stevensville rman was taken by Fireboat 9 to Cove Creek Community Marina, and patient care was transferred to medical personnel from the Queen Anne’s County Department of Emergency Services Paramedic Unit 100. After initial evaluation and treatment, the patient ultimately refused transport to a medical facility, Svoboda said. Natural Resources Police assisted in completing the tow of the vessel to Lippincott Marina in Grasonville.
The entire incident progressed for nearly two hours under the command of UCVFD’s Chief Christopher Tona Sr., Svoboda said, adding a total of three marine rescue vessels, four land units and 22 personnel operated during this incident.
This summer file photo shows United Communities Volunteer Fire Department’s Fire and Rescue Boat.