Agencies To Watch Waters From Above

OCEAN CITY — When thousands of boats and vessels of all shapes and sizes take to the waters around Ocean City for the last big holiday weekend of the summer season, they will likely have eyes in the sky watching their behavior.

In an effort to increase boating safety and enforcement in and around the resort area, the Maryland State Police Aviation Command and the Maryland Natural Resources Police (NRP) are partnering on a new initiative this Labor Day weekend that will put as many as 14 specially trained NRP officers in MSP helicopters and other airplanes flying over the waters in and around Ocean City. The enforcement initiative, which got underway today, will place an emphasis on the safe operation of boats and personal watercraft and will focus on speed limit violations, reckless operation, alcohol use and the presence of required safety equipment.

Specially-trained NRP officers will fly in MSP helicopters or airplanes to conduct boating enforcement efforts from the air to complement the resources on the ground or in vessels out on the water. As many as 14 NRP officers have been trained by MSP Aviation Command to work alongside flight crews.

The training, which began earlier this summer, focused on safety, crew resource management, water egress and emergency procedures. NRP officials said this week the initiative is in response to a spike in boating fatalities across the state this summer.

“Maryland has experienced 18 fatal boating accidents that resulted in 20 deaths this year,” said NRP Sgt. Art Windemuth. “In a normal year, there are 12 boating deaths throughout the state. The goal of this enforcement effort is to reduce boating accidents on the waterways through the safe operations of vessels.”

At the beginning of the summer, the State Police Aviation Command implemented deployment initiatives, including stationing MSP helicopter Trooper 4 at the Coast Guard Station during peak weekend times, which served as the catalyst for the Labor Day weekend boating enforcement from the sky plan. In addition, Ocean City Beach Patrol members were trained in the insertion of rescue swimmers by helicopter if needed in an emergency.

Maryland NRP is the lead agency in the enforcement of boating laws and regulations in the Ocean City area and throughout the state, and the MSP Aviation Command is committed to assisting NRP with its mission. For that reason, having the two agencies partner in the resort area on a busy holiday weekend on the new program makes sense, according to Windemuth.

“The large volume of boating and persons in and on the water makes Ocean City the obvious choice for implementing this initiative,” he said.