Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk – August 4, 2017

What a week it was on the news front. There was one fatality and at least four instances when lives were changed forever as a result of mistakes in judgment and unfortunate accidents.

Considering the amount of people in Ocean City, many of whom are visiting for the first time, it’s amazing to me there aren’t more significant incidents like we experienced this week. Just to recap there was a drowning, a Czech man critically injured when a trash compactor crushed his legs, a local man who suffered major neck injuries during a boating accident in the Inlet at night, an Irish worker whose fate looks grim after nearly drowning in an early morning swim and the mysterious death of a 30-year-old Texas woman on the beach.

While there were many other serious incidents over the last 10 days as well, it’s the woman’s bizarre death that has thrust Ocean City into the spotlight. A variety of media outlets reached out to this paper this week as a result of Ashley O’Connor’s death, including Good Morning America, which ran an extended piece on the O’Connor tragedy and the dangers of digging holes on the beach.

Each summer there is usually one stretch like the one experienced this week. Multiple incidents of a serious nature that tax police, emergency services and the beach patrol. Each year they all seem to happen around each other and typically the weather plays a part. Last weekend’s storm kicking up the ocean swell followed by the pleasant weather during a peak time of the season all contributed to these incidents. Unfortunately, a lack of common sense in most cases also played a part.

While walking alone on the beach at 2:30 in the morning is not using the best judgment, O’Connor’s death being ruled accidental due to sand suffocation has me scratching my head. I know I’m not alone in wondering how this could happen. I find it hard to believe she was just walking along the beach and fell in a hole so deep she was unable to extricate herself from it. I, like many of you, have walked miles on our beach and nothing like that has ever happened.

I’m not alleging there was foul play involved like the thousands of Facebook commenters who maintain the town is covering up a homicide. The autopsy and initial probe would have led investigators in that direction. Crime scene investigators follow the evidence not the whims of the tourism department.

There has to be more to the story and hopefully time will answer some of the many questions that remain a mystery today.

Although nothing is official, it was nice to see the Ocean City Mayor and Council trending toward a substantial contribution to Atlantic General Hospital (AGH). Just a couple months ago, it appeared the Berlin-based hospital system’s request for funding to support its capital campaign was going to be denied altogether.

Kudos to Ocean City Councilwoman Mary Knight for tasking City Manager Doug Miller with examining the financial benefits to the city of having Atlantic General Hospital less than 10 miles from the beach. A review found of the approximately 3,000 ambulance rides that originated in Ocean City approximately 90 percent ended at AGH with 9 percent to PRMC. Considering the shorter driving distance, Miller calculated AGH saves Ocean City about $290,000 annually when fuel, time and wear and tear on the ambulances are considered.

All that money, of course, doesn’t take into account the unquantifiable human aspect and how many lives have been saved and injuries minimized by having a hospital in such close proximity to a metropolitan area three months of the year.

After this week’s review of the data, it’s looking like Ocean City is going to eventually present a $100,000 grant to the hospital. That’s a far cry from the $1 million over four years the hospital had requested, but it’s certainly a positive turnabout and the right thing for the municipality to do. The donation will apparently be given to AGH to spend how it wishes, presumably toward the ongoing capital campaign, which is raising money for a cancer center, among other projects.

“I know they are developing a cancer center and an imaging center, but I think that should be up to them. What I’m saying is how much it saves us annually to have a hospital so close. I’m not for telling them what we want them to do with the money, only that they keep growing and making it a better place for all of us,” Knight said.

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.