Solomons Charter boat Captain Lee Tippett flanked by Cpl. Sarah Grice and Captain Brian Rathgeb of the Maryland Natural Resources Police
Solomons Charter boat Captain Lee Tippett, center, flanked by Cpl. Sarah Grice and Captain Brian Rathgeb of the Maryland Natural Resources Police.

Solomons, MD – As Captain Lee Tippett recalls the events of Thursday, evening April 30, his charter boat Fin Finder II was cruising along Solomons Harbor after a busy day on the bay. “We were on our way in from the second trip,” he stated. Suddenly, a 32-foot powerboat exploded and caught fire at the fuel dock at Solomons Harbor. It was a breezy evening and people on the dock when the fire erupted tried to get the burning vessel away to avert any further damage. According to Maryland Natural Resources Police (NRP) accounts, the wind kept pushing the burning boat back to the dock.

Fin Finder II arrived and Tippett used an anchor as a grappling hook. Tippett, who received a certificate of appreciation from NRP Thursday, June 1, said it was a spare anchor which was initially attached to the burning boat to move it away from the dock and then repositioned to the burning vessel’s front to continue the emergency towing operation.

Tippett recalled about 100 feet of rope separated the charter boat from the burning powerboat. “The heat was bad,” he recalled. The charter boat had some black “speckles” on its backside that were acquired during the intense fire. The burning boat was subsequently towed to the deeper water at the mouth of Back Creek. Fire department personnel then extinguished the blaze. The burning boat, a 1986 Thunderbird, sustained $12,000. One of the occupants, Michael Shawn Franz of Carroll County, was seriously burned and was flown to the Washington Med Star Burn Unit. An investigation by the Maryland State Fire Marshal’s Office determined the fire was the result of a refueling accident.

“Without his [Tippett’s] quick thinking and seamanship, the situation likely would have gotten worse,” the NRP citation reads.

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