Good Samaritan Boater Recounts Role In Last Week’s Diving Incident

OCEAN CITY — With a little good timing and perhaps some divine intervention, a local Good Samaritan helped save an unconscious 24-year-old Pennsylvania last week after he dove from a bulkhead into shallow water in the bay at 14th Street.

Around 10:50 a.m. last Thursday, the Ocean City Police Department and the Ocean City Fire Department responded to the area of 14th Street for a reported unconscious male in the bay. Upon arrival, OCPD officers learned the victim, a not-yet-named 24-year-old male from Hazelton, Pa., dove from a bulkhead into shallow water and apparently hit bottom.

“Thanks to the efforts of a Good Samaritan, the victim was brought onto a citizen’s boat and to a nearby pier to meet responding offices and paramedics,” said OCPD public affairs specialist Lindsay Richard.

Richard said the victim was then transported by Ocean City EMS to Atlantic General Hospital. He was later flown by Maryland State Police helicopter Trooper 4 to the Johns Hopkins Medical Campus where he was listed in critical condition. An update on the victim’s condition was not available this week.

The Good Samaritan in this case was Bob Sharbaugh, a local resident and fisherman who happened to be out on the water in his boat in the right place at the right time when the diving accident occurred last Thursday morning. Sharbaugh said this week he was fishing in the bay in the area of 14th Street when he came across somebody floating in the water.

“I thought it was a cooler at first, but apparently, it was his bare back,” he said. “As I drifted closer, I saw another man jump into the water and the next thing I heard was someone hollering ‘help, help.’ I drifted over closer and I realized the second man was attempting to pull what I now knew was an unconscious man from the water.”

Sharbaugh, who will turn 80 on the Fourth of July next week, said he had to act fast to assist the unconscious man and the other man who had jumped into the bay to help him.

“The second man was holding the victim, but it looked like he might go under,” he said. “I drifted as close as I could and reached out to them with a large fishing net, but when the second man grabbed it, the net broke. I then threw him a rope and he was able to grab it and start pulling himself and the victim toward the boat.”

What followed was a harrowing few moments that seemed like an eternity Sharbaugh and, more importantly, the victim and his rescuer in the water.

“I just tried to pull them in slowly,” he said. “There was some urgency, of course, but I also didn’t want to act too quickly because he likely had head, neck or back injuries. We slowly got the victim into the back of the boat and he was lying there when he started to breathe again.”

Sharbaugh said by now several bystanders had run down the docks in the area of 14th Street after hearing the commotion and the cries for help. With the victim in the back of his boat, a 17-foot Mako center console fishing boat, Sharbaugh made his way to the area of the fuel dock in the Harbour Island community where OCPD officers and paramedics were waiting.

“The police and paramedics got in the boat and started life-saving procedures on the victim,” he said. “They got a backboard or some kind of stretcher and gently lifted the man from the back of the boat. About five or six of them lifted him onto the pier.”

Sharbaugh said he was not a hero and just happened to be in the right place at the right time and was happy to be able to help.

“The ironic thing was, normally that area at that time of day is crowded with boat traffic, but I was the only boat in the area that morning,” he said. “Maybe God just kind of worked it out. In the meantime, I keep hoping and praying for that young man.”

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.