Piney Point, MD— Search of the Potomac River continued Sunday, Nov. 20 for the fourth passenger of the 2007, 30-foot Sports Craft, recreational boat. Roger Grissom, 52, of Hughesville, still has not been located. High winds, coupled by a Red Flag Fire Warning has been issued for Southern Maryland, Washington, DC and Northern VA as of 7 a.m.
The latest update was given earlier today at a press conference held at 3:30 p.m. To summarize the situation, Captain Brian Rathgeb with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for the Southeastern Region said, “On Saturday, Nov. 19, at 5 p.m. a ‘May-Day’ distress call came across channel 16; the U.S. Coast Guard evaluated the location of the call and determined it was near the pier of St. George’s Island, Buoy #12.”
Rathgeb said the distressed caller indicated that the vessel had four passengers and all four had life jackets.
The recreational boat had begun to take in water according to the U.S. Coast Guard. Presently, the DNR is unaware of the skill level of the watermen.
Rathgeb said, “At that time of night the winds were North West at 27 knots with 46 miles per hour wind gusts.”
This was no small rescue mission, and many First Responders came to assist in the effort. The U. S. Coast Guard responded to the call, as well as St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Department, Maryland State Police and NAS Patuxent Police.
Rescuers searched approximately 279 nautical miles. These miles were searched by boat and by helicopter under high winds, rough seas, and limited visibility.
The search began Saturday evening, but it wasn’t until Sunday morning at approximately 6:20 a.m. a U. S. Coast Guard member near an overturned hull of the vessel. Jason Downing, 39, of Mechanicsville was retrieved from the water and rushed to MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital in Leonardtown to receive medical attention.
Downing is still recuperating at MedStar St. Mary’s hospital; however, he could give rescuers information about the last location of the vessel in efforts to assist in the search. He was also able to give the search team the color of the life jackets the men were wearing.
Unfortunately, at approximately 8:30 a.m., a good Samaritan, along with the U.S. Coast Guard were able to recover two deceased passengers of the vessel from the water. The bodies of Gregory Moore, 55, of Mechanicsville and William Edelen, Jr., 48, of White Plains have been recovered from what now is being considered “a boat accident and recovery mission.”
The rescue mission continued into Sunday morning and afternoon and has included a 45-foot Response Boat-Medium boat crew from Coast Guard Station St. Inigoes, MD, and MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew, as well as the U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, N.C.
Rathgeb said, “Initially this was a search and rescue mission, but then early Sunday morning, it turned into a boating accident.”
The National Weather Service had put out a wind advisory on early Saturday, Nov. 19, which was to remain in effect until midnight EST Sunday night, Nov. 20. The advisory stated, “The strongest winds are most likely this afternoon and evening and again Sunday through Sunday evening. Winds west 20 to 30 mph with gusts around 50 mph. Impacts strong winds may blow down limbs, trees, and power lines.”
“It is difficult if not impossible to locate anything through this kind of water, especially at night,” Rathgeb said as the high winds blew around him as we stood on the edge of the peninsula of St. George’s Island.
Due to strong winds and nightfall, the U.S. Coast Guard has suspended their search, as of 5:45 p.m. Sunday evening
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