OCEAN CITY — The search continues this week for an Ocean City man who went missing after reportedly capsizing a canoe in the Assawoman Bay near Fenwick Island in the early morning hours of March 2.
Nicholas R. Townsend, 23, was last seen around 4 a.m. on March 2 while canoeing with a second man, Matthew Bullen, 20, of Fenwick Island, in the Assawoman Bay. The canoe, later reported to have been stolen, capsized in the bay and Bullen was able to make to shore, according to reports, but Townsend was not seen again.
The investigation revealed after Bullen reached the shore, he allegedly used a brick to smash out a window at a residence and changed into dry clothes before returning to his own residence. It was then when Bullen allegedly reported the capsizing to his roommate.
Bullen has since been charged with the theft of the canoe from a residence on Monroe Ave. in Fenwick along with the break-in at the residence on Roosevelt Ave. He has been charged with second-degree burglary, theft, criminal mischief and possession of burglary tools.
Meanwhile, the official search for Townsend, which included the Coast Guard with the assistance of the Millsboro Fire Department, began around 11 a.m. on March 2 and was officially called off around 5:30 p.m. the same day. In the two weeks since, however, a massive search conducted by family members, friends and the community has continued in the waters in and around the Maryland and Delaware resort areas.
Townsend’s mother, Cheryl Van der Slice, said this week the local community has rallied in support of the search efforts for the Stephen Decatur High School graduate.
“The community has been just wonderful,” she said. “There have been people out there all hours of the day looking. We’ve gotten a ton of support.”
Search efforts thus far have focused on the waterfront areas from Fenwick Island to Ocean City and beyond on both sides of the bay on the ground and from the sky.
“We’ve covered all of the marshes along Ocean City and from Route 90 to Lighthouse Sound,” she said. “Helicopters have searched from Fenwick to Assateague. … At this point, we’re obviously not sure what the outcome might be, but we remain hopeful. We’re just going to keep looking.”