Child Killed In Boating Accident; Disturbing Trend Of Incidents In Bay This Summer

OCEAN CITY- Continuing a disturbing trend in the waters around the resort in the last few weeks, an unidentified nine-year old died tragically on Wednesday afternoon after falling from a boat in the Sinepuxent Bay behind the resort and being struck by a propeller, while an 11-year old also fell overboard and suffered lacerations.

Shortly before 3 p.m. on Wednesday, the U.S Coast Guard and the Maryland Natural Resources Police (NRP) responded to a reported boating accident involving a rented pontoon boat in the Sinepuxent Bay behind Ocean City. The nine-year-old victim was struck and seriously injured by the boat’s propeller and went into cardiac arrest. Passersby attempted to resuscitate the nine-year-old victim, who was transported to the U.S. Coast Guard station in Ocean City to no avail and the child passed away. An 11-year-old victim also suffered lacerations but the victim’s condition is not known.

Wednesday’s tragedy marks the third incident involving victims seriously injured when falling from a rented pontoon boat in as many weeks. Around 4 p.m. on August 7, NRP officers responded to a reported boating accident in the Isle of Wight Bay. The investigation revealed a rental pontoon boat ran aground in the Isle of Wight Bay. When NRP officers arrived on scene, seven people were in the water, including an unidentified man who was bleeding profusely from a gash on his arm created by the boat’s propeller and another passenger who was hanging onto a moving boat.

An NRP officer recognized the victim’s wound as severed artery and applied a Combat Application Tourniquet to staunch the flow of blood until the victim could be taken to shore. Ocean City first-responders then took the victim from Bahia Marina to Atlantic General Hospital for treatment.

On Saturday, July 30, a New Jersey woman was standing on the bow of a rented pontoon boat underway when the vessel hit a wake and she tumbled overboard. The victim was struck by the boat’s propeller and suffered severe injuries to her face and leg before she was rescued by another passenger on the boat.

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According to the NRP, the victim was not wearing a life jacket and could not swim. She was taken first to PRMC in Salisbury and later transferred to Penn Hospital in New Jersey for specialized treatment. Her condition has not been updated. In that case, the rented boat’s operator was also charged with negligent operation of the vessel.

Ironically, Wednesday’s fatal boating accident involving a child occurred while a happy event involving special needs children and their families was going on at the beach at the Castle in the Sand. Hundreds of children were being taught to surf  and enjoying the ocean during the annual event, an ironic situation not lost on city officials while the fatal boating accident involving a child occurred in the coastal bays behind the resort.

“My heart is broken for this family,” said Ocean City Communications Director Jessica Waters. “I spent the morning at the Surfer’s Healing event and was so happy seeking the faces of the families who were filled with joy as their children enjoyed the ocean waves.  Many of those families had the best day on the beach and it completely breaks my heart to know that today was also the worst day for a family. It’s just devastating.”

After three serious accidents involving rented pontoon boats in as many weeks including one fatality, it remains uncertain if the operators had the requisite training or the renters carefully scrutinized the lessees, but state law is very clear on the requirements. According to the state’s annotated code, a rented boat owner or employee may not rent a vessel born after July 1, 1972 unless the operator possesses a safe boating certificate.

The boat-renting company must keep a record of each vessel rented, showing the Maryland registration number along with the horsepower of the motor. The record must list the name and address of the individual operating the vessel at the time of departure along with an emergency contact number. In addition, the record must include a time of departure and an expected time of return.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.