WINGATE, Md. (AP) — A good Samaritan rescued more than 20 people, including schoolchildren, after their charter boat sank Wednesday evening in the Chesapeake Bay, authorities said.
The U.S. Coast Guard said it received an alert with a GPS locator and a distress call: "Mayday, mayday, mayday. This is the motor vessel Karen N. We have sunk off of Bloodsworth Island." Communications were soon lost, the Coast Guard statement said.
Boat and helicopter crews were launched but a waterman arrived, took the boaters aboard and brought them to shore in the Maryland community of Wingate, where they were transferred to EMS personnel. Three people were taken to hospitals, including the charter boat captain with a head injury, said Maryland Natural Resources Police spokeswoman Candy Thomson.
"People responded from everywhere, but it's hard to get to Bloodsworth Island," Thomson said. "That waterman was the nearest and managed to pick them all up."
The 40-foot vessel belongs to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, which offers educational programs that takes students out on the bay, said foundation spokesman John Surrick. There were 23 people aboard, including three staffers, students and chaperones, and all are accounted for, he said. Everyone who was taken to a hospital, including the captain, were treated and released, Surrick added.
The Coast Guard's initial statement said there were 22 people aboard.
The students were fourth graders from Kent School in Chestertown, Maryland, according to Director of Admissions Tricia Cammerzell. The students were on an annual trip that is part of the school's bay studies science curriculum. Everyone associated with the school was taken to a hospital as a precaution and released last night.
"It went as it could," she said of the rescue.
Everyone aboard was wearing a life preserver, Lt j.g. Issac Yates, a command duty officer at the Sector Maryland-National Capital Region command center, said in a statement. "That greatly enhanced their survivability."
The boat struck something that was submerged, but the Coast Guard will investigate what caused the boat to sink since it is a commercial vessel, Thomson said.
Bloodsworth Island and two other islands form the boundary for the Tangier Sound near the mouth of the bay. It was purchased by the Navy in 1942 and used as a training ground for surface forces and aircraft, according to Maryland.