Good Samaritan Boater Recounts Pulling Man, Child From Water After Bridge Crash

Good Samaritan Boater Recounts Pulling Man, Child From Water After Bridge Crash
The accident scene is pictured Sunday afternoon. Photo by Rob Korb Photography

OCEAN CITY — Thanks to the heroic efforts of all involved, including a Good Samaritan who leaped from the Route 90 bridge into the shallow water below, a two-year-old child ejected from a pick-up truck teetering over the guardrail remained in stable condition on Monday in a Baltimore hospital.

Around 2:47 p.m. on Sunday, Ocean City Communications dispatched fire and police units to the Route 90 bridge for a multi-vehicle crash with multiple injuries. Worcester County Fire Marshal Rob Korb arrived on the scene moments after the collision occurred, grabbed his radio and advised incoming units there were five vehicles involved, including one hanging over the side of the bridge.

A mass casualty incident was declared, and the call was upgraded to a rescue response. During the collision, a 2-year-old female was ejected with her car seat from the pick-up truck teetering over the guardrail and landed in the bay below the bridge. A heroic witness, who has asked to remain anonymous, jumped from the bridge into the bay and rescued the child.

The heroic witness and the child were picked up by the local pontoon boat and transported to the public boat ramp at 65th Street where paramedics awaited. The child was flown to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore via Maryland State Police Trooper 4 helicopter. On Monday, the Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) reported the child remained in Johns Hopkins Hospital in stable condition.

campos media

Photo by Campos Media

Seven others were injured in the multi-vehicle collision and were triaged on the bridge before being transported via ambulance to area hospitals. According to the OCPD release all the individuals who were transported to the hospital have been released, with the exception of the two-year-old child.

The Ocean City Fire Department secured the vehicle teetering over the edge of the guardrail with rescue tools, while paramedics treated the multiple priority patients. The Route 90 bridge was closed on both directions for several hours as first-responders treated the victims and cleared the accident scene.

Due to the complexity of the crash, the investigation is ongoing by the OCPD’s Traffic Safety Unit. Preliminarily, it appears multiple crashes may have occurred, according to the OCPD release.

Local resident Joe Oertel was out on the bay with his wife, Tricia, and their youngest daughter, Alayna, and were the first to reach the Good Samaritan holding the infant in the bay near the bridge after his courageous leap. Oertel gave a harrowing account of how his family, particularly Alayna, recognized there was something serious happening on the bridge and the family knew they need to respond.

“Our youngest Alayna was driving the boat and she noticed cars u-turning on the bridge,” he said. “It was Alayna that alerted us to the situation. We got under the bridge and saw the vehicle hanging over the side. We started driving down that way and saw a man standing in the water waving his arms.”

Oertel said it was only after they had pulled closer to the man in the water that they realized he was holding a child.

“We navigated as close as we could, and we realized he was holding an infant,” he said. “We were in rescue mode by then.  We asked him if there was anyone else in the water. My wife, Tricia, dropped a ladder and took the child from the man, she handed it to me and Alayna wrapped it in a blanket. We pulled the man aboard the boat. The baby was crying, and the man appeared to be in shock a little. The water was cold, but I don’t think it was hypothermic.”

Oertel said it wasn’t until later that the family learned the man in the water had leaped from the bridge into the shallow water to rescue the child.

“We didn’t realize the man had jumped from the bridge to save the child,” he said. “We thought he was the father at first. His own child was still up on the bridge and he called to her to tell her to stay right where she was. It was surreal. Every second counted.”

Oertel said very little was said as the boat raced to the public boat ramp. He said the family was thankful to be in the right place at the right time.

“There really wasn’t any conversation,” he said. “We took off for the 66th Street boat ramp and the paramedics were pulling in right as we arrived. Luckily, we live here and we knew right where the boat ramp was. Other boaters in the area might not have known to head to the public boat ramp.”

Oertel said they learned very little about the heroic rescuer.

“We handed the baby to the paramedics and the man got out of the boat and walked over to one of the fire department SUVs,” he said. “That was the last we saw of him. We didn’t know until later that he had jumped from the bridge.”

A video of the rescue can be found here.

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.