Boating rescues in Chesapeake & Potomac over holidays: two saved, one still missing

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Coast Guard fast response boat underway. THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY photo

Coast Guard fast response boat underway. THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY photo

Search for sailor fallen from his boat on New Year’s Eve proves fruitless

SANDY POINT, MD.  — A holiday turned into one of misery and mystery when a man fell from his sailboat near the Chesapeake Bay Bridge on New Year’s Eve; the week before, two men fishing in the Potomac were lucky to be found after their boat sunk.

Stephen Reynolds' body is still missing after he fell off his sailboat in the Chesapeake Bay.

Stephen Reynolds’ body is still missing after he fell off his sailboat in the Chesapeake Bay.

Stephen Reynolds, 48, had been on a weekend cruise, the Maryland Natural Resources Police said, when he fell from his sailboat near the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.

Reynolds was not wearing a life jacket when he fell, the Coast Guard reported. Reynolds had been an unsuccessful candidate for county commissioner in Carroll County, Md.

Coast Guard drill near Baltimore, Maryland. The Chesapeake Today photo

Coast Guard drill near Baltimore, Maryland. The Chesapeake Today photo

After a lengthy search, the response of units from the Anne Arundel County Fire Department Marine Division and Dive Team, as of Jan. 4, 2016, have indefinitely suspended the search for the missing boater near Sandy Point.

Officials report the incident started just after 9:00 p.m. on New Year’s Eve with a report of a male in his 40s who had fallen off of a 30-foot sailboat on the Chesapeake Bay, just north of Sandy Point State Park.

MSP Trooper Seven dedication. THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY photo

MSP Trooper Seven. THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY photo

A fireboat from the Annapolis Fire Department was already on the water in the area and located the sailboat and initiated a search for the missing subject. Marine units from the Anne Arundel County Fire Department, the Maryland Natural Resources Police and the United States Coast Guard as well as two helicopters from the Maryland State Police assisted in the search.

State Police assist NRP oyster police in catching outlaw watermen raiding oyster sanctuaries on the Eastern Shore.

State Police assist NRP oyster police in catching outlaw watermen raiding oyster sanctuaries on the Eastern Shore.

Units from the fire department suspended the search around 11:30 p.m. on New Year’s Eve. The fire department assisted in search efforts during daylight hours on Friday and Saturday before indefinitely suspending the search Saturday evening.

 

Two rescued from chilly waters of Potomac after their boat sunk on mission for rockfish

Ragged Point Light in the Potomac River. THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY photo

Ragged Point Light in the Potomac River. THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY photo

PINEY POINT, MD. — Life jackets made the difference for two Washington-area anglers who spent about an hour in the chilling waters of the Potomac River late in the afternoon on Dec. 21, 2015, after their small boat filled with water and capsized.

Brad David Stemcosky, 41, of the District of Columbia, the operator of the vessel, and his passenger, Charles Richard Frend Jr., 41, of Hyattsville, were treated for hypothermia at Saint Mary’s Medstar Hospital after their dramatic rescue by local first responders.

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The incident, which happened off Ragged Point, serves as a reminder that although air temperatures have been unseasonably warm, water temperatures have cooled to near deadly levels for those who fall in, warned the Maryland Natural Resources Police. Right now, water temperatures in the Potomac and the Chesapeake Bay are hovering near 50 degrees. At that temperature, a person in the water will most likely be exhausted or unconscious in 1-2 hours.

Many folks fish for free around the Piney Point boat ramp. Fishing from the bridge is prohibited due to boat traffic underneath. THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY photo

Many folks fish for free around the Piney Point boat ramp. Fishing from the bridge is prohibited due to boat traffic underneath. THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY photo

“Cold water robs the body’s heat 32 times faster than cold air,” said Lt. Col. Robert Ziegler Jr., acting superintendent of Natural Resources Police. “Cold hands cannot fasten the straps of a life jacket, grasp a rescue line, or hold onto an over-turned boat.”

When water temperatures are between 50 degrees and 60 degrees most people, experience a massive shock to their systems, according to the National Center for Cold Water Safety. Immersion causes most people to lose control of their breathing, leading to gasping and hyperventilating. Clear thinking becomes almost impossible.

Stemcosky and Frend launched the 15-foot fishing boat at about noon from the Piney Point Recreation Area ramp in calm waters. The two men planned to spend the afternoon trolling for striped bass on the last day of the catch-and-keep season.

Valley Lee fireboat

Valley Lee fireboat. Photo courtesy of 2nd District VFD

However, when the men began their return trip as the sun began to set, waves increased to 1 to 2 feet. Stemcosky said that they were running southeast from Ragged Point Light toward the ramp with the bow into the waves. Water began coming over the bow and then the stern. The stern of the vessel submerged and the vessel capsized.

At about 5 p.m., the two men entered the water and their automatic inflatable life jackets activated. Stemcosky told officers that the sinking happened so quickly that neither of them would have had time to put on a stowed life jacket. Having life jackets on saved their lives, he said.

The two anglers bobbed near the boat for about an hour. Stemcosky called for help on both a handheld VHF radio and a cellphone.

Maryland State Police Trooper 7 interior. THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY photo

Maryland State Police Trooper 7 interior.
THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY photo

Trooper 7, the Maryland State Police helicopter based at St. Mary’s County Regional Airport helped with the search. A fire boat from Second District Volunteer Fire Department rescued the two men and brought them to Tall Timbers Marina, where they were met by ambulances from the Lexington Park Rescue Squad and the Second District Rescue Squad.

Coast Guard Station St. Inigoes could not recover or tow the boat because only a foot of the bow remained above the waterline. The boat remains adrift and notice to all boaters has been issued for the possible navigation hazard.

 

All of the actors of the Potomac River rescue reunited in Annapolis. Photo courtesy of 2nd District Vol. Fire Dept.

All of the actors of the Potomac River rescue reunited in Annapolis. Photo courtesy of 2nd District Vol. Fire Dept.

Rescued Fishermen Meet Their Rescuers

By Second District Volunteer Fire Department Lieutenant Heather Bean

ANNAPOLIS, MD. – On December 30, 2015, members from SDVFDRS & LPRS headed to US Coast Guard Station Annapolis to reunite with the survivors who were pulled from the Potomac River when their vessel capsized Dec. 20. Brad Stemcosky and Charlie Friend met with responders and shared their experience and gave many thanks to all involved.

The Second District Vol. Fire Dept. and Rescue Squad spends countless hours training to prepare for situations such as this! The evening of Dec. 20, 2015, members were gathered at the station preparing to venture out for an annual Santa Run. Without hesitation when the pagers went off, members hooked up the boat and responded immediately for what was dispatched initially as a Boat in Distress. While enroute it was confirmed people were in the water. The boat crew reacted quickly to get the boat underway. With the help of Trooper 7’s spotlight, the crew found Brad and Charlie right away. Both patients were put in the boat and quickly taken back to the boat ramp where EMS personnel were waiting.

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