Wednesday, October 3 – Suspected Missing Person Turns Up Fine

OCEAN CITY – Many of the details are still unknown about the boat theft in West Ocean City early Tuesday morning and the vessel’s apparent collision with the Route 50 bridge before running aground, but several sources have confirmed the alleged missing person associated with the case, John Edward Cropper, is alive and well.

The U.S. Coast Guard and Maryland Natural Resources Police searched the waters around the resort all day on Tuesday for a person believed to have gone overboard during the ill-fated theft of the “Hooked Up,” a charter boat based at Fisherman’s Marina in West Ocean City around 1 a.m. on Tuesday. From the beginning, the search focused on John Edward Cropper, 42, of Ocean City, but several sources have confirmed Cropper, who failed to show up for work on Tuesday, which only fueled suspicion he was the missing person, has turned up alive and well.

Although all of the details surrounding the bizarre case are still unclear, what is known is that around 1 a.m. on Tuesday, Christopher Bornaschella, 24, of Chincoteague, stole the “Hooked Up” from its dock at Fisherman’s Marina and attempted to flee when the vessel struck the Route 50 bridge as many as three times before running aground just south of the span.

Bornaschella, who was reportedly intoxicated, was arrested by Maryland Natural Resources (NRP) officers on the vessel and taken to the Maryland State Police barrack in Berlin for processing. Bornaschella was charged with felony theft over $500, operating a vessel while intoxicated and operating a vessel in a reckless manner. In addition, he is wanted on a warrant in Virginia and is being held as a fugitive from justice from that state.

During the investigation, Bornaschella told police another man he met earlier that night known only as John had stolen the boat with him and he believed John had gone overboard during the collision with the bridge. The conversation touched off a massive search for the missing man, believed early on to be Cropper, including the Coast Guard and Maryland NRP vessels and a Coast Guard helicopter, which circled the area all day on Tuesday starting around 7 a.m. and continuing until dusk.

However, according to sources, Cropper is fine, although it remains uncertain if he had anything to do with the theft. Witnesses to the boat theft have said they saw only one man, Bornaschella, on the vessel, but the main suspect’s testimony leads them to believe there was someone else involved.

More details will be posted as they become available. For the full story, see Friday’s edition of The Dispatch.