Boy barely escapes flooded stream "I thought I was gonna die," says Cockeysville boy, 12.

August 21, 1991|By Frank D. Roylance and Meredith Schlow | Frank D. Roylance and Meredith Schlow,Evening Sun Staff

The cloudburst that broke over northern Baltimore County yesterday morning nearly turned a familiar neighborhood stream into a deathtrap for a 12-year-old Cockeysville boy who was swept into the raging current.

"I thought I was gonna die. I thought I was gonna drown," said Ned Martin Shatzer Jr., who managed to rescue himself from the swollen stream.

Ned, sounding tired and uncomfortable, was interviewed by telephone yesterday as he underwent observation for leg and neck injuries at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center.

Ned Shatzer's ordeal began about 10 a.m. when he left his father's house on Southfork Court, near Cockeysville Middle School, to visit a friend.

"He lives a little bit up, away from the stream," he said. "I was trying to walk across, 'cause it wasn't [narrow] enough to jump across. I can walk across when it was smaller, but the stream was, like, flooded over."

A neighbor, Donna Curtis, said the concrete-paved drainage stream is normally about 18 inches wide and 6 inches deep. But in storms it becomes a torrent.

Curtis, who has lived in the neighborhood for 32 years, says that about 10 years ago a young girl was swept up by the water. The girl managed to pull herself out, but Curtis said that many children just don't realize the strength of the water after a storm.

"Suddenly, that thing can be just like a raging river," she said. "If I see a group of small ones out there, I usually ask them not to be so close."

When he stepped into the water, Ned said, "I evidently slipped on algae on the bottom and got swept down. . . . I was trying to get back up, but it just pulled me down. The current was really fast."

A short distance away, Glenn Dean, an Oklahoma resident who was visiting his sister, was getting ready for breakfast when he looked out the window and saw a boy put his foot into the water.

"All of a sudden, he got swept up," Dean said. He called to his brother-in-law, Doyle Valentine, for help. "We could hear [the boy] screaming."

Dean's sister, Beverly Valentine, phoned 911.

Ned, meanwhile, was being carried downstream, past a place where another stream enters and increases the current.

All the while, he said, he was yelling, "Help! Somebody help me!"

Ned said he can swim, but "it didn't do me any good. . . . I almost drowned 'cause I swallowed some water and breathed some of it in."

The water "was really cold," he said. At some point, "I hit a rock with both my legs, but only one was badly injured."

He complained yesterday that one of his legs felt "a little numb."

"And I'm starting to get head pains," he said.

Doctors at GBMC put him in a neck brace, but X-rays showed no serious injury, GBMC spokeswoman Vivienne Stearns-Elliott said.

After being swept downstream for what he guesses was only 20 seconds, Ned managed to grab onto an overhanging branch. But it would take him another five minutes to work his way over to a spot where he could pull himself out of the water.

"I could hear the ambulances coming and the Fire Department," he said. Neighbors, meanwhile, continued to look for him.

"They were still looking for me in the stream when I got out," Ned recalled. "I came up behind them. It was hard for me to walk. My knees were all bruised up."

Curtis and her neighbors wrapped Ned with a coat and blankets until the rescue crews arrived and took him to GBMC.

Ned said that if he ever saw anyone trying to cross a storm-swollen stream again, "I'd tell 'em not to cross it, 'cause they could get pulled in by the current."

Stearns-Elliott said later that Ned was discharged about 5 p.m. in good condition.

The storm that struck Cockeysville was part of a system of thunderstorms that flooded streams and roads; downed trees and power lines in Carroll, Baltimore, Harford, Cecil and Howard counties; and cut electrical service to 19,000 Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. customers.

Service to most customers had been restored by 3 a.m. BG&E spokesman Art Slusark said the 150 customers still without power at mid-morning were expected to be on-line again by afternoon.

The storms also damaged telephone lines across the region, and about 1,500 Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Co. customers today remained without service, or with faulty service.

C&P spokesman Al Burman said repair crews have been put on extended hours, and "we estimate that by late tomorrow or Friday everything will be back to normal."

Today's National Weather Service forecast called for partly cloudy skies with highs in the low 80s; tonight's forecast, fair skies with lows in the mid-60s.

Fred Davis, chief meteorologist for the National Weather Service at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, yesterday investigated reports of tornado damage during late-morning storms near Sweet Air in Baltimore County, and at Jarrettsville Pike and Hess Road nearby in Harford County.

Davis said the most serious damage was near Sweet Air and Carroll Manor roads, where he found trees toppled, roof and siding damaged and damage to a construction shed. But he concluded that the damage had been caused by high winds, not a tornado.

"All the debris was in a straight line," he said. Tornadoes blow debris into circular patterns.

Two storm-related deaths were reported.

State Police at Bel Air reported that Kenneth Colman, 21, of the 1000 block of Plaza Circle in Joppa, drowned about 1 a.m. yesterday after he jumped into a pond at the Edgewater Apartments in Edgewood.

State Police at Frederick said Guy A. Moore, 55, of the 7700 block of Harvest Hill Road in Mount Airy, was killed around midnight Monday when he lost control of his car on Md. 26 near Libertytown and crashed into a tree.

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