Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk – June 30, 2017

If you like stories involving Good Samaritans, as I do, this was the week for you. In a day when there’s considerable negative aspects to report on (see the Cops and Courts section), it’s nice when the best human nature has to offer gets the spotlight. That was the case with two situations over the last week.

First was last Thursday’s intervention by a boater on 14th Street who most likely saved a 24-year-old Pennsylvania man’s life. Seventy-nine-year-old Bob Sharbaugh was on the water when he noticed what he thought was an object floating in the bay. When he got closer, he saw it was a body.

“I thought it was a cooler at first, but apparently, it was his bare back. 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,” he said. “The second man was holding the victim, but it looked like he might go under. 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.”

Sharbaugh then took the man to a nearby fuel dock to meet first responders. The man’s condition is unknown at this time, but his injuries, while major, were not believed to be life threatening.

Another potentially grave situation was averted on Wednesday, but this time it was 40 miles offshore. A 27-foot center console fishing boat began taking on water after both outboard motors went down. It was perilous enough that the boat’s occupants donned lifejackets and were close to jumping in the ocean out of fear the boat was going down in short order.

Soon enough the crew of the That’s Right and Captain John Oughton arrived on the scene and rescued the three individuals on board and began to help dewater the boat until the U.S. Coast Guard arrived.

“They were dead in the water. They lost both engines, and then they lost all power. We went over and took the three people on board onto our vessel and they were probably never happier to get on a boat. They said they were about to jump into the water, but we told them never get into the water until the boat is definitely going to go down,” Oughton said. “We’re all kind of each other’s eyes and ears out there and we have everyone’s back. They were bobbing around 40 miles offshore in four-to six-foot seas with occasional eight-footers and they probably were going to go down sooner rather than later. The Coast Guard responded quickly and was right on us, so they did an outstanding job as always.”

It’s human nature after serious incidents occur to contemplate if anything preventative could have bene done. That’s the thinking after two serious diving incidents over the last 10 days in Ocean City changed the lives of two young men.

Many online commenters to stories about these instances have suggested the town undertake a public awareness campaign on the dangers of diving in shallow waters. Generally, I agree it would be wise to educate people about the depth of the coastal bays watershed. How to go about it an effective fashion is another matter altogether.

It would be easy for the town to add this safety message to the many it already circulates during the summer months, such as the “keep your feet in the sand until the lifeguard is in the stand” warning from the Ocean City Beach Patrol and the Walk Smart messages targeted pedestrian and bicycle safety.

Not every unfortunate situation merits a call to action to spend money to raise awareness, however. A prime example would be the group of boaters who after a fun night at local bars ran aground in marshland off Snug Harbor on Saturday night. That incident does not merit a heightened campaign on drinking and boating. The guy who captained that boat into the marsh at night surely knew it’s illegal and dangerous to boat while drunk. The same can be said for those folks who get behind the wheel of a car after drinking too much.

Although there’s a danger to being overly reactionary to current events, it would seem appropriate for the Town of Ocean City to consider looking into some grant funds or other avenues for some key sign placements alerting potential swimmers to the dangers of diving off bulkheads and docks in the bay. They can’t be posted at every single entry into the bay but a few strategically placed around high volume areas could be worthwhile.

I remember as an early teen fishing along the bayside dock at 3rd Street when a group of men jumped out of their running vehicle and dove off the bulkhead headfirst. It was obviously a planned prank but not thought out well. Fortunately for them it was high tide and fairly deep there because of the navigation channel. They didn’t know it at the time but they were lucky their main issue was how they were going to get out of the bay in quick fashion because their vehicle was just sitting idling nearby. It became evident the driver was not supposed to leave the car.

That was one of my first introductions to the miscreants of June.

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.