Updated: 23 Rescued After Boat Sinks Off Dorchester County - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Updated: 23 Rescued After Boat Sinks Off Dorchester County

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An image of the sunken vessel off Bloodsworth Island, from which 23 were rescued. Via MSP Trooper 4 An image of the sunken vessel off Bloodsworth Island, from which 23 were rescued. Via MSP Trooper 4
Another image of the sunken vessel off Bloodsworth Island. Via MSP Trooper 4 Another image of the sunken vessel off Bloodsworth Island. Via MSP Trooper 4
A commercial boat offloaded 23  people in Wingate to EMS after their boat ran aground Wednesday evening. (Photo: Bonnie Tarr Cox) A commercial boat offloaded 23 people in Wingate to EMS after their boat ran aground Wednesday evening. (Photo: Bonnie Tarr Cox)
(Photo: Google Maps) (Photo: Google Maps)

WINGATE, Md. (WBOC/AP)- A good Samaritan rescued more than 20 people, including schoolchildren, after their charter boat sank Wednesday evening in the Chesapeake Bay, authorities said.
    
The U.S. Coast Guard said it received an alert with a GPS locator and a distress call: "Mayday, mayday, mayday. This is the motor vessel Karen N. We have sunk off of Bloodsworth Island." Communications were soon lost, the Coast Guard statement said.
    
Boat and helicopter crews were launched but several waterman arrived, took the boaters aboard and brought them to shore in the Maryland community of Wingate, where they were transferred to EMS personnel. Three people were taken to hospitals, including the charter boat captain with a head injury, said Maryland Natural Resources Police spokeswoman Candy Thomson.
    
"People responded from everywhere, but it's hard to get to Bloodsworth Island," Thomson said. "That waterman was the nearest and managed to pick them all up."

The men involved in the rescue include Jeremy and Daniel Shockley, Snooks and Neil Windsor, Brandon Beville, and Andy Dawson.

"I ran my motor a little hot to get there to them.  It's so far away, 40 minutes sail, but when a man is in distress, you want to get there as fast as you can," said Jeremy Dawson.

"The Karen N, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation boat was fully submerged.  They were standing on top of the roof of it.  It has a full length canopy on it so they were standing on the canopy too," said Brandon Beville.
    
The 40-foot vessel belongs to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, which offers educational programs that takes students out on the bay, said foundation spokesman John Surrick. There were 23 people aboard, including three staffers, students and chaperones, and all are accounted for, he said.  Everyone who was taken to a hospital, including the captain, were treated and released, Surrick added.

"I've been doing this at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation for 40 years, I've never had to take a phone call like that.  This is the first time we've had an accident like this," said Bay Foundation President Will Baker.
    
The Coast Guard's initial statement said there were 22 people aboard.
    
The students were fourth graders from Kent School in Chestertown, Maryland, according to Director of Admissions Tricia Cammerzell. The students were on an annual trip that is part of the school's bay studies science curriculum. Everyone associated with the school was taken to a hospital as a precaution and released last night.
    
"It went as it could," she said of the rescue.
    
Everyone aboard was wearing a life preserver, Lt j.g. Issac Yates, a command duty officer at the Sector Maryland-National Capital Region command center, said in a statement. "That greatly enhanced their survivability."
    
The boat struck something that was submerged, but the Coast Guard will investigate what caused the boat to sink since it is a commercial vessel, Thomson said.  The Coast Guard tells WBOC that the boat was in an area marked as prohibited on navigational charts due to debris underwater associated with Navy bombing drills on the island.  Locals say several military tanks are submerged there, once used as target practice.  The watermen who rescued the 23 believe the Karen N. struck one of the tanks. 

"There's tanks down there that the military lef there that the navy used to shoot with their airplanes.  Military tanks?  Yes, military tanks.  There's a lot of stuff there on Bloodsworth Island that the navy used to shoot at that they just left there, said Brandon Beville.  Patuxent River Naval Air Station has not yet responded to a request for comment.

The Coast Guard says the boat did hit a submerged object, but what that object was will not be released until the investigation is complete.

Bloodsworth Island and two other islands form the boundary for the Tangier Sound near the mouth of the bay. It was purchased by the Navy in 1942 and used as a training ground for surface forces and aircraft, according to Maryland.

We asked Will Baker about the boat being in prohibited waters.

"I've read the press accounts.  The Coast Guard has just begun their investigation.  I'm a little surprised they are releasing aspects of the investigation before they have talked to us, but if that's true, that's certainly something to be concerned about," said Baker.

“CBF will conduct a review of the incident and cooperate with the Coast Guard in their investigation," Surrick said.

As for the watermen who responded to the distress call, they don't consider themselves heroes.

"I'm just there to help people.  If it would happen to me, I would hope someone would do the same for me," said Shockley.

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