Va. man charged in theft of boat

October 03, 2007|By Chris Guy | Chris Guy,Sun reporter

OCEAN CITY -- A Virginia man was charged yesterday with stealing a $450,000 sportfishing boat and running it aground on a sandbar after striking the U.S. 50 bridge - a collision that investigators fear might have thrown another man overboard.

Christopher Bornaschella, 24, a resident of Chincoteague who was charged in the incident, was found in the 48-foot Hook Up about 1:30 a.m. by the Coast Guard.

A witness had recognized the boat as it left a West Ocean City marina and alerted its owner, who called authorities less than an hour before the vessel was found.

Bornaschella, who investigators said appeared to be drunk, told them that another man he knew only as "John" might have fallen off the boat.

According to police, Bornaschella said he had met the man in a bar and that the pair had left to go on a fishing trip sometime before 1 a.m. Bornaschella told investigators he believed the man owned the vessel.

Coast Guard patrol boats began an immediate search of the area for the man Bornaschella said had been aboard. They were joined by Maryland Natural Resources Police vessels and a Coast Guard helicopter during daylight hours.

"Everything has turned up negative results," said Petty Officer John Edwards, a Coast Guard spokesman.

Searchers stepped up their efforts when a 42-year-old Ocean City man, John Edward Cropper, was reported missing after failing to show up for his job as a crewman on a clam boat, said Natural Resources Police spokesman Sgt. Ken Turner.

"At this point, we don't even know if there is any connection, whether this is a coincidence to have two with the same first name; but we are taking this very seriously," said Turner.

"Right now, we have a missing person in the water," he said. "The witness who saw the boat leaving the marina said only one person was aboard, but there could easily have been someone else. It's a 48-foot boat."

The search was suspended because of darkness last night. Efforts were to resume today, said Turner.

Bornaschella was being held in the Worcester County Detention Center yesterday on $50,000 bond.

He is charged with felony theft, reckless operation and three alcohol-related offences.

In addition, he is wanted in Virginia on an outstanding warrant for burglary theft, Turner said.

chris.guy@baltsun.com

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