At 1345 Saturday afternoon, the Northumberland County Sheriff’s office issued VHF radio alert to Smith Point Sea Rescue reporting a 50’ Carver boat with 8 persons on board was taking on water near buoy 62 in the central Chesapeake Bay. Smith Point Sea Rescue (SPSR), the all volunteer marine rescue team out of Cockrell Creek in Reedville responded to the call.
As soon as the Crew of four was assembled at their boathouse, Rescue I, SPSR’s 42’ Provincial heavy weather day night rescue boat departed. The crew consisted of Bill Turville, Pete Ortiz, Michael Haynie and Robert Gwaltney all of Reedville. En route to the bay the dispatch office called back to report the vessel had sunk and all 8 persons were now in the water.
Rescue I departed Cockrell Creek and traveled across the bay at Wide Open Throttle as the wind and waves were rapidly building an advance of a major evening storm. The Coast Guard contacted SPSR to request an ETA and advised they would have a unit on the way. Once on scene no signs of victims or debris could be found and no other boats were nearby. SPSR established a search pattern around the last known position, and began to visually search the waters.
After about ½ hour, one of the victims who had a handheld VHF radio could occasionally be heard and SPSR was able to established limited communication with him. When asked, the man in the water reported all victims were wearing life jackets and were together, but please hurry.
Soon thereafter, the man in the water reported that he thought he could hear a boat motor and then confirmed so when Rescue I cut its engines. SPSR asked if he could see a white boat with flashing lights and if we were approaching him. He reported he believed Rescue I was coming towards him. SPSR then turned 30 degrees to port to confirm. Shortly thereafter coolers and other flotsam started to appear. The man in the water called and said they were at our three o’clock position. The Crew then scanned to the right and a group of 8 heads were seen floating huddled together.
A tethered life ring was tossed and all were quickly pulled to the rear of Rescue I. Three women and five men were then carefully lifted one by one through the “tuna door” onto the deck of Rescue I. First Aid was administered and all of SPSR’s emergency blankets and towels as well as the Crew’s shirts and jackets were distributed for warmth.
After at least 50 minutes in the 49 degree water, most of the survivors were in remarkable condition. One male was suffering from hypothermia and was treated on the deck by Crew members laying beside him and sharing their body heat. The others were moved into the warmer but crowded cabin and huddled together on the floor. SPSR, through other crew members already assembled on the beach, had coordinated with dispatch for triage to be established at Ingram Bay Marina.
When Rescue I arrived at the marina 25 minutes later, Northumberland Rescue Squad and EMS were on the scene with three squad units. EMS requested they be allowed to board Rescue I to perform triage. The result was one code red, one code yellow and all others green. After on scene treatment, all the survivors declined transport to RGH and were given access to the cabins at Ingram Bay to warm up and clean up while travel arrangements were coordinated to their homes in New Jersey. Rescue I returned to quarters at approximately 1700.
SPSR wishes to thank the Northumberland Sheriff’s Office Fire and Rescue Dispatchers, the Northumberland County Rescue Squad and EMS, Ingram Bay Marina, the United States Coast Guard and the Virginia Marine Police for their assistance in successfully completing this mission.
It appears that the boat left earlier Saturday morning from VA Beach with its new owners heading to its new home in New Jersey.
Photos attached are those of SPSR Members and Rappahannock Record usage is authorized.
SPSR Crew members photo, L to R
Pete Ortiz, Michael Haynie, Bill Turville, Robert Gwaltney