BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Three men have lost their lives on the water in less than a week, making this year one, of the most deadly for Maryland boaters.
The latest deaths came when winds suddenly picked up from a cold front. The deadliest single boating incident this year in Maryland unfolded last Saturday during a fishing tournament, amid four-foot waves, and wind gusts above 40-miles-an-hour.
A lone survivor was clinging to the hull, bringing the total number of deaths this year to 17.
“You try to make it in. You try to be careful, but in the course of what happened, it probably got dark on them too,” said boater Curt Jordan.
“You’ve got to know what the weather forecast is when you want to come in, because throughout that day, fronts come in, winds pick up” said Captain Kelly Johnson, Department of Natural Resources Police.
Last year, there were 21 deaths on Maryland’s waterways, the most in more than two decades. And if there’s a common thread, it’s that most of the victims were not wearing life jackets.
“It is not a law that you wear them. They just have to be readily available. So, that’s why we promote the wearing of them because it would prevent fatalities,” said Capt. Johnson.
In January, two young men died on the Severn River in treacherous conditions.
In June, a boater in Edgewater died trying to retrieve his hat in the water.
There are the survivor stories, including Tad McGowan, who spoke to WJZ this week after his rescue at the mouth of the South River.
“I was going to do my best to make it to Thomas Point, but under those conditions, there’s certainly no guarantee I was going to if those guys didn’t come along, so it really refocuses you and it makes you grateful for what you’ve got, and for the opportunity to keep on living,” said McGowan.
Maryland averages 13 boating deaths every year.
While adults are not required to wear life jackets in Maryland, children under 13 are mandated to do so, on recreational boats under 21 feet in length.