Operator Charged In Fatal Pontoon Accident

OCEAN CITY- For the second time in two weeks, charges have been filed in relation to the tragic boating accident in August that claimed the life of nine-year-old child when Maryland Natural Resources Police (NRP) cited the operator of the rented pontoon for negligent operation of a vessel.

Following an investigation into the accident in August when a nine-year-old boy fell from the bow of a rented pontoon boat near the Inlet in Ocean City and was fatally struck by the vessel’s propeller, Maryland NRP officials have no cited the boats operator, Dustin Daniel Healey, 26, of Freehold, New Jersey with negligent operation. The maximum penalty for a first offense is a $500 fine and a preliminary hearing has been set for District Court in Worcester County for February 15.

Shortly before 3 p.m. on August 17, the U.S. Coast Guard and NRP officers responded to a reported accident involving a rented pontoon boat in the Sinepuxent Bay behind Ocean City. The nine-year-old victim, who was riding on the vessel’s bow, fell overboard and was struck by the boat’s propeller and was seriously injured. The child later succumbed to injuries sustained from the propeller strike.

Healey was at the controls of the rented pontoon boat when the nine-year-old boy slipped from the bow and into the path of the propeller. Despite valiant efforts of Good Samaritans and first responders, the child died as a result of multiple injuries. According to NRP officials, the child was one for four people sitting in front of the boat’s safety railing with his legs dangling above the water in an activity known as bow-riding, which is illegal in Maryland.

Healey reportedly told NRP investigators he knew passengers were sitting on the bow, but could not see the child from the boat’s controls and was only alerted to the boy’s fall when other passengers began screaming.

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The charges against Healey represent the second time in two weeks that involved parties have been cited for various roles in the tragic incident. Last week, Maryland NRP officials charged OC Watersports LLC, at watercraft rental operation near the base of the Route 50 bridge at Talbot Street, and its owner Tyler Barnes with five counts related to the fatal pontoon accident in August.

Barnes and his company were charged with improper equipment on a rental vessel, failure to keep records, negligent operation of a vessel, two counts of failure to keep required equipment on a vessel. charges include a failure to keep enough required floatation devices for the number of occupants on board. According to the statement of charges, the rented pontoon is question fell short of having the required number of floatation devices on board by two.