OCEAN CITY – A potential tragedy was averted this week when two people were rescued from a burning fishing boat just off the coast of Ocean City, but the vessel burned to the water line and later had to be towed ashore amid a spread of debris that covered nearly an entire block.
Shortly before 8 a.m. on Monday, the 40-foot sport fishing boat was traveling north along the coast in the area of 118th Street about 200 yards offshore when its occupants, owner and operator David Catrino, 41, of Ocean City, and his passenger, Ollie Charles Powell, 41, of Berlin, noticed fire and smoke coming from below decks. Catrino later said when they removed a hatch cover, heavy flames and smoke came from below decks and a brief effort to control the blaze with fire extinguishers on board were unsuccessful.
The fishing boat “Get Sum” nearby responded to the scene and safely removed Catrino and Powell from the burning vessel. The Ocean City Fire Company responded to the beach in the area of the vessel fire but could provide little in the way of assistance because of the distance the vessel was offshore. The Coast Guard also responded, but its responsibility is to safely remove any passengers from danger, which had already been accomplished by the crew on the “Get Sum.”
Maryland Coast Towing also sent a vessel to assist with any recovery effort, but the vessel continued to burn to the waterline and could not be saved. According to a source on the beach, the vessel had been sold and was being delivered to a buyer in Delaware at the time of the fire.
The fishing boat continued to burn as it settled on a sandbar just off the coast at 118th Street near the Carousel. Larger pieces of the vessel floated ashore and could be seen on the beach or floating in the surf line in an area about a block north of the Carousel. In addition, smaller, burned pieces of the vessel were strewn along the beach and a strong odor of diesel fuel and smoke filled the area on the otherwise crystal clear morning.
About an hour or so after attempts to save the vessel were abandoned, crews arrived to begin the effort to remove the burned boat from the water. Two tow trucks from Shore Towing and Recovery in Berlin, along with Maryland Coast Towing, arrived on the beach and began to determine the best way to remove the vessel from the ocean. Armed with an elaborate system of cables, diver Del Baker entered the water in full gear and swam out to what was left of the boat on the sandbar.
At first, salvage crews expected to take the vessel off the sandbar and tow it to shore in pieces, but with a little good luck and a cable well placed by the diver, it soon became apparent the vessel would come ashore in one piece, at least in the beginning. With cables fastened to key points on the vessel and its big twin engines, the tow trucks on the beach began the slow process of hauling the burned out shell ashore.
It was slow going as the hull of the vessel, with its twin engines, shafts, propellers and other equipment, along with a large amount of wet sand and seawater slowly inched toward the coast.
At different times during the process, the tow trucks had to be moved and the tackle had to be reconfigured to combat the weight of the vessel. About two hours later, what was left of the vessel was in the surf line on the beach, but it took a large backhoe from the town of Ocean City to finish the final pull onto the sand. The vessel broke apart during the last few feet of pull onto the beach, which accommodated its eventual disposal.
Hours later, Ocean City heavy equipment removed what was left of the boat from the beach, hauled it over the storm-wracked dune line and loaded it onto a dump truck nearby. A Maryland Natural Resources Police (NRP) special operation division seized what was left of the vessel for a boat accident investigation, which is ongoing. The cause of the boat fire has not been determined.