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Teen Girl Dies During Sailing Lesson In Annapolis

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Mike Schuh joined WJZ Eyewitness News as a general assignment reporter...
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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.

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