Skip to Main Content

Boating accident claims the life of Essex man

Natural Resources Police LogoAn Essex man died in a boating accident Wednesday afternoon in Back River in Eastern Baltimore County when the vessel capsized in turbulent waters and he could not be rescued.

James Christopher Bills, 24, was one of two passengers in a 12-foot jon boat that launched from a protected creek for a fishing trip at about 2:30 p.m. The boat was not motorized and two of the men paddled out.

As the boat rounded Cox’s Point to enter Back River, the three men encountered adverse conditions ─ winds at 10-15 mph and 2- to 3-foot swells — and decided to return to sheltered waters.

But as they tried to turn around, the boat was struck by three waves and it capsized, tossing all three men into 55-degree water. The boat owner, Lindsey Shurland O’Brien, 25, of Essex, told investigators they were all wearing personal flotation devices.

A Good Samaritan on shore who heard the men’s screams and saw them thrashing jumped into his boat and was able to rescue O’Brien and the third man, John Henry Boyd, 26, of Essex. But the conditions on the water made it impossible for him to spot Bills, who could not swim.

A Baltimore County Fire and Rescue boat recovered the body. The men were in the water about 25 minutes.

The survivors were taken to Franklin Square Hospital for evaluation and treatment.

The investigation is continuing.