Two injured in boat collision

Cabin cruiser hits charter of fishing party on bay

July 08, 2005|By Candus Thomson and Annie Linskey | Candus Thomson and Annie Linskey,SUN STAFF

From 300 yards out, Capt. Bill Fish "saw trouble" bearing down on a boat of fishermen anchored nearby. A speeding cabin cruiser with no one at the helm seemed locked on the fishermen's position.

"I called to Jimmy ... and then I yelled on the radio," said the veteran Tilghman Island charter captain, recalling yesterday's accident at the mouth of the Choptank River. "There was no hope."

Capt. Jim Brincefield leaned on the horn in a futile effort to alert the 46-foot boat coming at him. On board, his nine customers, friends from the Washington area, pumped their arms in the air and hollered.

"There was no one at the helm," Brincefield said. "It's a harrowing sight to see a triple-deck cabin cruiser bearing down on the stern with nothing you can do about it."

Fish watched in horror. "He did not slow down at all. It looked like the whole boat was going to go inside Jimmy's."

The sound of splintering wood bounced off the water as the Price Pirate rose above the stern of Brincefield's boat, then rolled to starboard, knocking the fishermen off their feet. The collision sent two people to an Eastern Shore hospital and damaged Brincefield's boat, the Jil Carrie.

Cpl. Ken Turner of Maryland Natural Resources Police said the incident is under investigation and charges are pendingagainst the operator of the boat, whom he declined to identify.

"We all thought we were going to die," said Freddie Hart, 70, of Washington, a passenger on Brincefield's boat.

The impact threw Johnny Randolph into the water, where he began flailing.

"He went under a few times, and the waves were taking him away," said Charles Taylor, 68, another Jil Carrie passenger.

Fish raised anchor and pulled in tight to Randolph, who was tiring. His first mate and 15-year-old son, Chris, threw a life ring. The eight fishermen on the Nancy Ellen - firefighters from Frederick County and a Baltimore County EMT - ran to the side and reached over.

"He said, `I'm done, let me go,'" Fish said. "I don't know how many hands had him, but they weren't letting go. They were all cool customers."

Randolph, 57, and another passenger, Mary Elizabeth White, 68, both of Washington, were treated at Easton Memorial Hospital and released.

Turner, with the Natural Resources Police, said the cabin cruiser was northbound on the Chesapeake Bay on its way to Kent County just after noon when it crossed the mouth of the river and struck the Jil Carrie.

Fish and other witnesses said the cabin cruiser appeared to be traveling at 25 knots.

"He came right by us and I said, `What the hell is he coming that close for?,'" said Lawrence Lewis, 74, a volunteer firefighter in Frederick County. "I've never seen anything like it, and I don't want to see anymore, either."

Luckily, Brincefield's 50-foot boat, built of wood with a fiberglass coating, is known around the bay for its sturdiness.

"We built it to survive and she came through with flying colors," Brincefield said. "Ninety-nine out of a 100 boats out there would have been at the bottom if they'd been hit like this."

Yesterday, as he surveyed the damage, Brincefield worried about the charter trips he would have to cancel and the fate of the free fishing trips he gives young cancer survivors and other seriously ill children.

"This is going to put me out of commission for a while," he said. "But by the grace of God, we're still here."

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