CHESAPEAKE BAY BRIDGE (June 21, 2009)—An alert off-duty Maryland Natural Resources Police officer is responsible for rescuing three people who were clinging to coolers in the Chesapeake Bay Saturday night. The victims' boat had capsized earlier due to a large wake from a freighter that swept over the stern of their vessel.
Corporal Roy Rafter was driving east-bound on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge with his family around 8 p.m. when he noticed two people clinging to a cooler approximately one mile from the eastern shore. The officer called the NRP Communication Center and alerted them before proceeding to the nearest patrol boat station located at the Chesapeake Marina at the base of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge on Kent Island.
When Rafter arrived at the location where he first spotted the victims, they were not to be found. Fortunately, a Maryland Transportation Authority officer on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge was able to direct him to a nearby location where he found three people clinging to two coolers.
Rafter was able to transport all three people safely to shore.
An investigation of the accident revealed that five people where fishing in a 20-foot power boat near the Chesapeake Bay Bridge approximately one mile from Kent Island. A large wake from a freighter swept over the stern of the vessel causing it to capsize.
Four out of the five occupants of the capsized boat were wearing life jackets. Two of the life-jacket-wearing occupants swam to the eastern shore and were picked up by a Natural Resources Police patrol boat.
The other two people, who were wearing life jackets, stayed with the fifth person, who was not wearing a life jacket. These three subjects used two coolers to assist them staying afloat until rescued by
The NRP recommended that everyone on board wear a personal flotation device while a vessel is underway. Maryland law requires children less than 7 years of age to wear a life jacket while underway in a vessel that is less than 21 feet in length. In addition, children under 4 years of age and/or less than 50 pounds must have a life jacket equipped with a grab strap, inflatable headrest and crotch strap.
The NRP also recommends filing a float plan with a friend or relative. The plan should include the vessel's destination, how long it will remain at the destination, and what time its expected to return. This information will assist rescue units if the vessel does not return.
The Maryland Natural Resources Police emergency number is 800-628-9944.