Citizens, First Responders Honored For May Bay Rescue

Citizens, First Responders Honored For May Bay Rescue
Everyone involved in the emergency rescue in May of a young child from the bay was celebrated by the Ocean City Mayor and Council this week. Photo by Shawn Soper

OCEAN CITY — The “humble hero,” the local family that arrived on the scene by pontoon boat and all of the first-responders who had a hand in the May 2 incident on the Route 90 bridge that ended with an infant ejected from the span and into the bay below were all feted with a special ceremony at City Hall on Monday.

On May 2, a multi-vehicle crash on the Route 90 bridge resulted in a pick-up truck dangling from the bridge railing and a two-year-old infant ejected into the bay below. Allied law enforcement agencies responded immediately, and each did their respective jobs to ensure the safety of all involved as they are trained to do.

The real story, however, was the incredible acts of courage and ingenuity of several private citizens who stepped up and did their part in preventing the incident from becoming a tragedy. It starts with Jonathan Bauer, vice president of information services at Atlantic General Hospital, the so-called humble hero who jumped from the Route 90 bridge into the chilly water below to rescue the two-year-old who was ejected from a vehicle involved in the multi-vehicle collision.

No less important was the role played by Bauer’s teenage daughter Ava, who remained on the bridge and checked on those involved in the crash while coaching her dad during his leap of faith into the water below. Also, the efforts of the Oertel family and their own teenage daughter Alayna, who responded to the scene in their pontoon boat and pulled the infant and Bauer from the water and transported them to waiting paramedics at the nearby public boat ramp cannot be discounted.

The Bauers and Oertels, and all of the firefighters, paramedics and police officers who had a role in the amazing incident in early May were all feted in a special ceremony at City Hall at the start of Monday’s Mayor and Council meeting. The Bauer family and the Oertel family were each given keys to the city from Mayor Rick Meehan and every single first-responder who had a key role in the incident were also honored. Ocean City Fire Department Chief Richie Bowers acted as master of ceremonies of sorts.

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“The chain of survival was successful on this day in Ocean City because of well-trained firefighters and paramedics, other public safety agencies and the incredible acts of courage and situational awareness by Jonathan, Ava, Alayna and Mr. and Mrs. Oertel,” he said. “We thank you and are recognizing everyone for their life-saving acts as a team on May 2 at the Route 90 mass casualty incident.”

Ocean City Police Department Chief Ross Buzzuro said everything fell into place to create a happy ending out of potential tragedy and praised the efforts of the private citizens involved.

“This was the perfect example of multi-disciplines working together,” he said. “Ordinary people sometimes get thrust into situations that are extraordinary. This is another example of the community stepping up and going above and beyond.”

Mayor Rick Meehan presented keys to the city to the Bauer and Oertel families for their roles in saving the child’s life and praised all first-responders who had a role in the incident.

“We want to extend our gratitude to each and every one of you,” he said. “Everybody instinctively stepped up and did the right thing to save a life.”

Around 2:47 p.m. on Sunday, May 2, 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 two-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. Bauer, who throughout the days that followed wished 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 Oertel’s 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 in stable condition. Seven others were injured in the multi-vehicle collision and were triaged on the bridge before being transported via ambulance to area hospitals.

On Monday, Bowers gave a detailed account of the entire incident, including the heroic actions of Bauer.

“He acted without hesitation or regard for his own safety,” he said. “Jonathan landed in the water and immediately swam up to the baby and pulled her from the water. The infant was not initially responding to his verbal commands. He held her up to his shoulder and tapped her back several times. The infant coughed up some water. She was still not responding so he tapped her back again and she coughed up more water and opened her eyes.”

Bowers also praised the calm reserve of the two teenage girls, Ava Bauer and Alayna Oertel, for their roles in the miraculous incident.

“Ava Bauer and Alayna Oertel are recognized for their incredible situational awareness and the ability to remain focused on helping during this serious emergency incident,” he said. “Ava was instrumental in calling 911, helping to find out who injured on the bridge from the crash, and in coaching her dad on his plan to get out of the water after he jumped.”

Bowers also praised Alayna Oertel for recognizing the situation and getting her parents to respond to the scene in their pontoon boat.

“Alayna observed that there was a small baby in the bay and directed her father to run the boat over to help with getting the man and infant out of the water and to the shore,” he said. “She also gathered life vests and had them ready for Jonathan and the infant. The Oertel family pontoon boat came toward Jonathan and he handed the baby to Mrs. Oertel and then he climbed onto the boat. The Oertels then transported the infant and Jonathan to a boat ramp where paramedics were waiting to treat the baby and him for injuries.”

The Oertels were honored for their quick response, but Bauer remains the true hero of the day, according to Bowers.

“Alayna was instrumental in identifying that baby fell into the water from the bridge and that they were in need of immediate assistance,” he said. “Jonathan Bauer jumped some 25 to 35 feet from the Route 90 bridge into approximately four feet of water to save an infant who was floating face down in the Assawoman Bay. Jonathan was instrumental in saving the infant’s life.”

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.