On Saturday, June 16, 2018, at 10:30 pm the Cobb Island Volunteer Fire Department & Emergency Medical Services, along with our mutual aid partners from St. Mary’s County Company 5, Charles County Company 14, and Colonial Beach, VA Boat 1, were dispatched for an out of control vessel in the Potomac River off of buoy 17. The vessel had been reported by a tug boat captain pushing a barge up the river. Boat 6, Engine 61, and Ambulance 68 responded from our station. Boat 14 from Charles County, Boat 5 from St Mary’s County, and Colonial Beach, VA Boat 1 also responded.
At 11:30 pm Boat 6 and Boat 5 located the vessel on the Virginia side of the Potomac River off Maddox Creek. The vessel was making wide circles at what appeared to be full throttle. Boat 14 was able to obtain the vessel numbers and confirmed that there were no occupants on board. Information was relayed to Command. The information was also relayed to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) who was able to obtain the vessel ownership information. Command, ran by Josh Oliver of our Department, sent another member to search the nearby Marina areas, working with DNR, to see if a vehicle and trailer could be located that matched the ownership to the vessel. A truck and trailer were located at Shymansky’s Marina as a positive match to the vessel. DNR was able to use this information to contact a family member who advised there were two persons who had left to go fishing earlier in the evening.
At 12:30 am Boat 14 was able to bring the vessel under control and towed the vessel into Captain John’s Marina at Cobb Island. Boat 6 requested a damage assessment be done on the vessel once it reached the Marina. The damage assessment revealed damage to the port (left) side of the vessel with red paint. At 1:00 am all fire/rescue boats were called into the Marina to discuss a search plan. Charter Boat Captain Wesley Jackson, also a member of Cobb Island VFD & EMS, in conjunction with Operations Commander Josh Oliver, developed a detailed grid search plan for all boats to follow and cover the area. The plan was based on information obtained on the vessels first seen point, the location of the vessel when stopped by Boat 14, and information from Boat 5 on the speed of travel of the vessel as it crossed the river. The DNR vessel was assigned to check all buoys in the immediate area for any damage. At 1:30 am all fire/rescue boats began their assigned search patterns. At 3:00 am the DNR vessel reported potential damage to buoy 20 on the channel edge off of Cobb Island. At that time the Charles County Dive Team was requested. The Dive Team arrived and promptly began running their sonar around buoy 20. At 5:30 am the Dive Team advised they had two positive marks in the area of buoy 20. At 6:00 am all fire/rescue boats had completed their assigned search patterns and all were released with the exception of Cobb Island VFD & EMS Boat 6, who remained to assist the Dive Team. At 7:00 am the Dive Team had pinpointed the marks and sent a diver down. At 7:25 am the first subject was found and removed from the river to Boat 6. The Dive Team continued their efforts to pinpoint the second subject and at 9:00 am the second subject had been retrieved and placed on Boat 6. Both subjects were transported to shore and turned over to DNR investigators.
The Cobb Island Volunteer Fire Department & Emergency Medical Services would like to thank all of our mutual aid partners, along with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, and the United States Coast Guard (who responded to the incident via helicopter), for their full cooperation and assistance. We would also, like to thank Skip Yates of Captain John’s Restaurant for opening the restaurant at 1:00 am in order for the boats to obtain fuel and for refreshments for the crews to be available.