Two men who rescued a deer trapped in Patapsco River ice were each fined $90 by a state Natural Resources Police officer because they did not have life vests aboard the inflatable boat they used to reach the animal.
A 911 caller reported a deer stuck in the ice near Route 648 in Linthicum about 5 p.m. Thursday, Sgt. Brian Albert of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Police said.
A Natural Resources officer and a Baltimore County fire crew arrived and were discussing whether to attempt a rescue when two men on the scene decided they would do it themselves, Albert said.
"The river there, I'm told, is probably over 100 feet wide, maybe a little wider," Albert said, noting that the deer was "out toward the middle" of the river, which "more than likely has some current."
"The Fire Department was kind of game-planning what they would do," Albert said. "With Natural Resources Police, we will attempt, but we are not going to risk a human life for a deer life, as cruel as that may sound. … I'm as sympathetic as the next person on that deer being in the water, but when you weigh the risk to the reward, I would probably decide not to try to rescue that deer."
Firefighters and the natural resources officer advised the men not to go out on the water, particularly without life vests, Albert said.
But the men went out in their boat and freed the deer.
"I saw something moving. I saw them trying to break the ice," said Jim Hart, 46, who lives in Carroll County. He said was driving by and felt compelled to stop to see what was happening.
Khalil Abusakran, 33, from Baltimore County, said he was also driving by the scene when he noticed that people were throwing rocks and sticks at the deer, causing Abusakran to get his rubber boat from his van to rescue the deer.
"The deer was stuck and couldn't get up off the ice," he said.
Abusakran and Hart then went out into the water, which they described as about 10 feet deep. Hart said they had to work to break the ice using their oars and shovels. The two men were finally able to break open a wide enough section of ice to free the deer.
Abusakran said he later noticed that he thought the deer was pregnant. He released her into Baltimore Highlands Park.
Hart said the Natural Resources officer issued them $90 citations for not having personal flotation devices on board. State law requires that all boaters have a personal flotation device with them at all times on any navigable body of water, though they are not required to wear them unless they are younger than 16.
But Abusakran said he had two personal flotation devices in his boat, and that he repeatedly told the Natural Resources officer.
Albert said however, the men could have faced a stiffer charge: disobeying a lawful order.
"They could have been arrested and taken before a commissioner," Albert said. "Our officer erred on the side of the least invasive action that he could take at the time."
Hart said several people have already contacted him, offering to pay the citation, but he said that's not the point.
The men said they will fight the citations in court on Feb. 18.
Sun reporter Jessica Anderson contributed to this article.