Alcohol believed to be a factor in capsized boat

Neighbors heard SOS calls for hours before calling 911

Date Published: 
July 22, 2016

Alone in the dark water, a Maryland man was allegedly intoxicated this week when he capsized his boat in west Fenwick Island in the Big Assawoman Bay.

The Roxana Volunteer Fire Company responded to a call about the accident on Saturday, July 16, at 11:20 p.m. After several minutes of searching, the RVFC rescue watercraft found Jeffrey S. Collier, 54, of Bel Air, Md., clinging to his capsized 28-foot cabin cruiser in about 3 to 4 feet of water.

Police said he was transported to shore, found to have no injuries and then released to the Division of Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police.

Collier was reportedly sailing alone, northward from Ocean City, Md., to the Treasure Beach RV park and campground, which is located north of Route 54. He apparently became lost and entered a dead-end channel south of Route 54. Believed to have been moving too fast for the water conditions, his boat struck a sandbar and capsized between Roosevelt Avenue in the Cape Windsor neighborhood and Bayberry Lane in Keen-wik on the Bay.

“I’m told it was about 3 feet deep, and then there’s muck on the bottom,” said David Ferguson, RVFC’s public information officer, of the conditions there.

Collier clung to the vessel for about two hours, in the dark.

“Upon arrival, neighbors reported that they had heard a man yelling ‘Help’ and ‘SOS’ for one to two hours before 911 was called and the fire departments were alerted,” according to the RVFC.

The boat was recovered Sunday morning by a commercial salvage company.

Collier was cited by Natural Resources Police for operating a vessel under the influence of alcohol (OUI), negligent operation of a vessel and failure to maintain a proper lookout. He was released, pending a future appearance in Justice of the Peace Court 14 in Georgetown. Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police were continuing their investigation into the accident this week.

First-responders included the Roxana Volunteer Fire Company, Bethany Beach Volunteer Fire Company, Ocean City (Md.) Volunteer Fire Company, Delaware State Police Aviation Unit and Coast Guard (Ocean City).

Many local fire companies have marine rescue watercraft.

“All the boating companies go out frequently … for boating incidents, for capsized boats, for people in trouble,” Ferguson said. “If someone thinks they’re in trouble and it turns out they’re not in trouble, well, that’s great.”

Delaware Department of Natural Resources & Environmental Control (DNREC) officials reminded boaters this week that operating a boat with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 percent or higher is in violation of Delaware and federal laws. Boat operators found to be at or above the limit may face citations, fines and jail time. Their voyage will be terminated, and their vessels could be impounded. Boating rules are online at http://de.gov/boatsafety.