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NRP, Good Samaritans Rescue Six Boaters from Magothy River

Mishap serves as a reminder to always wear a life jacket

A Maryland Natural Resources Police officer and two Good Samaritans in a sailboat battled gusty winds, three-foot waves and bone-chilling water temperatures to rescue six people, all of whom were wearing a lifejacket, from a sinking boat in the Magothy River last weekend. 

An officer on routine patrol Sunday evening near the mouth of the river heard a distress call from a boat about a half-mile away. He sped to the scene and found 16-foot open motorboat nearly submerged and a man in the water, weakened by the cold and clinging to a ladder.

The sailboat’s occupants rescued the man’s wife and two children ─ who had swam to a nearby island ─ and then headed to the scene to assist, where the NRP officer was on site.

The officer helped Terry Browne, of Cape St. Claire, out of the water to reunite with his family, and then headed to Dobbins Island, about one-eighth of a mile away, to rescue two other passengers who had swam ashore and were waving life jackets overhead to attract attention.

“Fortunately, all six people were wearing life jackets,” said Col. George F. Johnson IV, NRP superintendent. “At this time of the year, with the water so cold, life jackets can mean the difference between life and death.”

Browne, the boat owner, was taken to Baltimore Washington Medical Center for treatment of exposure and released.

The boaters told NRP that they had launched from Deep Creek and spent the day on the water, arriving at Dobbins Island mid-afternoon. While they were there, the winds picked up out of the south-southeast, creating difficult conditions for getting back home.

The winds ─ gusting to 30 mph ─ and three-foot waves battered the boat’s bow. The water temperature was 50 degrees and the air temperature was 60 degrees. As Browne slowed the vessel, the backwash swamped the small craft and pulled it down, stern-first.

Browne, who had a rotator cuff injury, stayed with the boat. His family and two other passengers, Robert and Kathy Hobgood, also of Cape St. Claire, swam back to Dobbins Island.

Catherine Born and the children scrambled over the red clay cliffs to the protected side of the island and saw a sailboat anchored in calm water. Aboard, James Norman Roberts of Wyoming and his son, James Albert Roberts of Riviera Beach, were sitting down to dinner, when they heard the cries for help.

The men hauled anchor, picked up the three boaters and then headed for the sunken motorboat and Browne. They arrived at the scene shortly before the NRP patrol boat.

With all boaters accounted for, the two vessels rendezvoused with an Anne Arundel County Fire Department boat and a Coast Guard vessel, which took them to shore.

“This accident is a reminder of how quickly a pleasant outing on the water can turn into an emergency,” said Johnson. “We applaud the Roberts family for acting quickly and decisively and we remind boaters to always wear their life jackets.”