Del. Dwyer admits to drinking in Arundel boating accident

Magothy River accident injured six others, including children

  • Del. Donald H. Dwyer Jr. is wheeled out of the Maryland Shock Trauma Center for a news conference.
Del. Donald H. Dwyer Jr. is wheeled out of the Maryland Shock… (Baltimore Sun photo by Kevin…)
August 23, 2012|By Kevin Rector and Andrea F. Siegel, The Baltimore Sun

Del. Donald H. Dwyer Jr. said Thursday that he had been drinking alcohol when a motorboat he was operating collided with another boat in the Magothy River — an accident that left six people with serious injuries.

In a brief news conference outside a Baltimore hospital, the Pasadena Republican said his blood-alcohol content was measured at 0.2 percent after Wednesday's crash. The legal limit is .08, according to state law.

"I deeply regret my actions and ask for your forgiveness," Dwyer said, adding that no one should operate a car or boat while under the influence of alcohol. He said his thoughts are with the others injured in the collision.

Dwyer, 54, another adult and four children were seriously injured in the collision, according to Department of Natural Resources Police and the Anne Arundel Fire Department.

A seventh person suffered less serious injuries, and two others — an adult and a child — refused treatment.

Dwyer was in a wheelchair and wore a neck brace and a cast around his left foot during the news conference outside the Maryland Shock Trauma Center. He spoke from prepared statements and answered no questions from reporters before being wheeled back into the hospital by a nurse.

Sgt. Brian Albert, a spokesman for the Department of Natural Resources Police, said he did not know how Dwyer was aware of his blood alcohol content. Natural Resources investigators collected a blood sample from Dwyer and are waiting for analysis results from a state lab, which could take 30 days, he said.

Pending the analysis, DNR police will determine what charges — if any — will be filed, Albert said.

"We're in no hurry to expedite the investigation," Albert said. "It takes a long time to reconstruct an accident that occurs on the water, we have both vessels and we don't think any of the parties are going anywhere."

None of those hospitalized are suffering from life-threatening injuries, Albert said.

The loud noise of the crash — followed by screams — alerted neighbors in the waterfront community by Long Point, residents said.

"I thought it was a bomb. I never heard anything so loud over here," said Janet Bemkey, who lives with family there.

Her daughter, Lisa Willis, a nurse, was among those who rushed out to help. She saw her neighbor Andrew Wendell getting on his boat and joined him.

Describing the accident scene, Willis said, "The whole front of the boat was gone. It was not there."

Saying that everyone was pulled to safety, she added, "We are calling it 'miracle on the Magothy.'"

She said one of the children was about 30 feet from her boat. "Randy Harbin dove in to save her and brought her back to the boat," Willis said.

The children — some of whom were being pulled on a tube — were scared and crying, and a "couple of the kids were asking if they were dying," she said.

The collision highlights an issue that state officials have sought to combat for years. Last year, DNR police arrested 124 people for operating a watercraft while intoxicated, according to agency statistics. In the last 10 years, the annual arrest count has varied from 75 in 2002 to 237 in 2007.

Last year there were 186 reported boating accidents, involving 156 injuries and 24 fatalities, according to the agency. Alcohol was a factor in 2 percent of all accidents, but in 25 percent of accidents involving a death. Of the 24 boating fatalities last year, alcohol was a factor in six.

Given the popularity of tubing in the Magothy, the crash also revived concerns about boat speeds — though the speed of the motorboats involved in the accident is unknown.

"I think this accident calls attention to rethink some of that," said Paul Spadaro, president of the Magothy River Association. "We should perhaps reconsider assigning separate areas for tubing, separate from boating activity."

There is no weekday speed limit on the part of the Magothy near Cornfield Creek, where the crash is believed to have taken place, Albert said. The limit is 6 knots on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, he said.

Albert said Dwyer had one passenger on the 26-foot Baja closed-bow runabout, identifying him as John Edward Moran IV.

Moran has been a Republican candidate for election previously in Anne Arundel County.

Nine people — four adults and five children — were aboard the motorboats when they collided about 7 p.m., causing one of the boats to sink, said Albert. The boat that sank — the Baja — has since been recovered by a tow vessel. The other boat, an 18.5-foot Bayliner runabout, was seriously damaged but made it to shore, police said.

"The cause of the collision is still under investigation," Albert said. "A number of investigators are on a fact-finding mission."

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