CALVERT COUNTY, Md. (June 21, 2016)—An overdue boater, who triggered an extensive search overnight Sunday by federal, state and local agencies, was located and charged with drunken operation, Maryland Natural Resources Police reported.
The incident in Calvert County is a reminder of the dangers of driving a boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs, as officers gear up for the Operation Dry Water enforcement campaign this coming weekend.
Jonathan Mark Wagner, 26, of Lusby, left the Navy Recreation Center on the Patuxent River at midday on Saturday. He told family he wanted to make sure his 19-foot boat was in good running order.
When he had not returned that night, his family went to the launching ramp and found his vehicle and boat trailer still parked.
Natural Resources Police patrol boats, the Coast Guard, Calvert County and Charles County volunteer first responders and a Maryland State Police helicopter Trooper 7 were activated to assist in the search.
At about 2:30 a.m., officers located the vessel returning to the boat ramp from a restaurant on St. Leonard's Creek and noticed Wagner had difficulty docking the boat. Subsequently he failed field sobriety tests, was arrested and taken to the local State Police barrack for a breathalyzer test. He registered a 0.09 blood alcohol content, above the legal limit.
Wagner was charged with three counts of operating a boat while impaired and with negligent operation. He will be required to appear in Calvert District Court at a later date.
Beginning Friday, Natural Resources Police, the Coast Guard and other maritime law enforcement agencies will participate in Operation Dry Water, a nationwide crackdown on alcohol- and drug-impaired boaters.
From Deep Creek Lake and the Patuxent River to the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, officers will conduct saturation patrols looking for boaters whose blood alcohol content exceeds the state limit.
The goal of the three-day campaign - that combines messages about the dangers of boating under the influence and an increased police presence on the water - aims to drastically reduce the number of accidents and deaths due to impaired boating.
"Keeping the public safe is our number one priority," said Maryland Natural Resources Superintendent Colonel Robert K. "Ken" Ziegler Jr. "Alcohol and drugs can turn a safe boater into a deadly menace. Maryland's participation in Operation Dry Water makes it clear that we have no tolerance for alcohol- or drug-impaired boaters."
During last year's campaign, officers arrested nine people for impaired operating, issued 87 tickets for other boating violations and conducted 727 vessel safety checks.
The maximum penalty in Maryland for operating a vessel while impaired by alcohol is a $1,000 fine and a year in jail for the first offense.