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By Alex DeMetrick

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A strong gust of wind or a sudden wave bigger than expected. Alone or in combination, the force took a life in the Chesapeake. Alex DeMetrick reports a sailing accident triggered a rapid rescue effort that’s now moved into a recovery mission.

The bay is sailing heaven in good weather. But Monday afternoon, conditions apparently changed rapidly between the western shore in Pasadena and the eastern shore in Rock Hall. Strong winds or big waves or possibly both.

“Causing the sailboat to keel over,” said Capt. Jerry Kirkwood, Natural Resources Police. “Two people actually slid off the deck of the boat into the water.”

Investigators say a woman was quickly rescued by those on board the boat.

“They were never able to find the other person, a male, that fell into the water,” Kirkwood said.

Within minutes, the Coast Guard dispatched rescue crews, as did Natural Resources Police, to search for the man, described as only 27 years old from Philadelphia. A Coast Guard helicopter called in from Atlantic City also looked until nightfall.

Tuesday, the rescue was scaled back to a recovery operation using side scanning sonar to pick up much smaller targets.

“It has been a fairly busy season. We’re up to six fatalities for the year. The biggest cause of death is drowning so if people would wear their lifejackets, they could survive a boat accident,” Kirkwood said.

Investigators say the missing man tumbled into the water without a lifejacket.

Natural Resources Police credit those aboard the sailboat with quickly maneuvering their vessel to save the woman and providing a GPS position to searchers.


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