Teen Girl Dies During Sailing Lesson In Annapolis

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ)—Tragedy in the Severn River. A teenager taking part in a sailing camp drowns when her boat flips over.

Mike Schuh has more on how it happened.

Though she was only 14, the friends of Olivia Constants say she was an experienced sailor. Out in the waters Thursday, she was strapped into a harness, which was connected to her sailboat.

Only a freshman, Olivia was well-known at Broadneck High School.

“She was a very sweet girl. She was always smiling, always laughing. She didn’t have enemies. Everyone loved her,” said Ayreunna Thompson, classmate. 

 An honor roll student, she had many interests, including sailing. Late Thursday afternoon, in the waters off the Naval Academy, she was a student in a sailing camp.

DNR says when under water, Olivia’s harness became tangled in the lines. The harness is a device that allows the sailors to lean back over the edge of the boat to keep it balanced.

 “Her harness became entangled in the rigging, and she was unable to reach the surface,” said Art Windemuth, DNR police. “A counselor nearby responded. He freed her within a couple of minutes.”

But it was too late.

“We’ve closed,” said Hal Witacre, Severn Sailing Association. “We’ve not had practice today.”

 At the place where she went to camp and where her parents are members, there is profound sadness.

“It makes it difficult,” Witacre said. “And that is a sense of sadness that I have now and have had since this happened. It’s indescribable.”

The investigation could take a month or more.

“We don’t believe there is any criminal charges at this time,” Officer Windemuth said.

Meantime, friends wait for more news.

“When I first heard about it I cried,” Thompson said.  “I’ve been crying all day, all yesterday. It was very sad.”

As you might expect, her immediate family is not able to talk about this tragedy. Her uncle tells WJZ that her funeral arrangements are still pending.

DNR has seized the boat and all of the equipment for its investigation.

More from Mike Schuh
Comments

One Comment

  1. Leonard says:

    This is simply heartbreaking.

  2. Nancy Martin says:

    Yes it truly is heartbreaking. Our prayers go out to them. She and her family are such wonderful people.

  3. Very Sad says:

    It is always important for sailing instructors to choose the type of craft that is used for instruction very carefully. Sails of reduced area, hull design, keel weight and such, must be considered, to protect against mishaps of this type. In a carefully designed “instructional sailboat” the craft is highly resistant to capsizing, even in strong, unexpected gusts. This leads me to question the selection of vessels that were used in this class.
    My heart reaches out to the surviving family of this young girl.

    1. Sad Avid Sailor says:

      as a lifelong sailor I am truly saddened by this accident. However, the boat she was racing in is the most commonly used boat in the world for teenagers in both learn to sail and advanced racing programs. Having been an instructor for over 5 years and a sailor for over 15, I have never seen an accident like this in a club 420. Considering that she was using a trapeze harness, she must have been a very advanced sailor. I do not question the use of the boat – they truly are safe – however what I do question is the design of the trapeze harness itself. It is a sad “freak accident” that absolutely breaks my heart. My sympathies go out to the family, friends, and also the instructor who was coaching the team. I can only imagine the pain that he too is going through.

    2. VASAILOR says:

      With a comment like this I have to wonder just how much experience (if any) you have sailing. The boat they were using was very well suited for this class and is very safe. This was just an incredibly freak accident. Comments such as yours that imply fault on the part of the instructors are inappropriate.

  4. Madeline Eichelberger says:

    My thoughts & prayers are with you all. RIP young girl!

  5. Jo Dean says:

    OMG that is just so so sad, I cannot even begin to imagine what this family must be going through. One thing is for sure, the bottom feeding, blood sucking attorneys will have a field day.

    real-privacy.no.tc

  6. S.auer says:

    Olivia I am so glad that we got to become good friends in the past few years. I love you forever and always. RIP

  7. Meredith says:

    My thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of this young girl. So very sad and tragic. RIP.

  8. Jason Robinson says:

    This is a terrible tragedy. I student taught at Broadneck just this past Autumn and Olivia was one of the students in my class, and she was a fine student. I saw her at Annapolis Mall outside of Borders in the parking lot maybe three weeks ago, and she spoke to me saying “Hello Mr. Robinson”, and I responded, “Hello Olivia”. I am very saddened by this news and my prayers and deepest sympathies go out to her family and friends.

  9. jim says:

    I spoke with some of her friends tonight, just by chance. They were talking about this tragedy and quick loss of a close friend.

    I too had this happen to me while in high school.. somehow, it feels like a dream

    there is no way possible that your friend is gone

    you just spoke, saw ’em yesterday

    some sort of tear filled dream

    i lost my friend 22 years ago and it still feels like some kind of dream

    life goes on

    pain goes on

    this is truely a tragedy

    i believe all of Annapolis feels for your family in this brutal time

    try to be strong

    remember her smile

  10. Sad Avid Sailor says:

    @ ” Very sad” ….. as a lifelong sailor I am truly saddened by this accident. However, the boat she was racing in is the most commonly used boat in the world for teenagers in both learn to sail and advanced racing programs. Having been an instructor for over 5 years and a sailor for over 15, I have never seen an accident like this in a club 420. Considering that she was using a trapeze harness, she must have been a very advanced sailor. I do not question the use of the boat – they truly are safe – however what I do question is the design of the trapeze harness itself. It is a sad “freak accident” that absolutely breaks my heart. My sympathies go out to the family, friends, and also the instructor who was coaching the team. I can only imagine the pain that he too is going through.

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