On June 20, at approximately 8 p.m., off-duty Maryland Natural Resources police officer Roy Rafter, was driving eastbound across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge with his family when he noticed two people clinging to a cooler in the water below.
Rafter called the Natural Resources Police Communication Center and informed them of the situation, then proceeded to the nearest patrol boat station at Chesapeake Marina at the base of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge on Kent Island. He boarded a patrol boat and went to the area where he last observed the subjects in the water. When Rafter arrived, the subjects in the water were not there. A Maryland Transportation Authority officer was on the bridge and directed the Rafter approximately a half-mile to where the subjects in the water had drifted.
When Rafter arrived, he found three people, not two people, clinging to the two coolers. The subjects were transported to shore. An investigation of the accident revealed that five subjects were fishing in a 20-foot powerboat at Chesapeake Bay Bridge. A large wake from a freighter swept over the stern of the vessel causing it to capsize. Four out of five occupants were wearing life jackets. Two of the occupants that were wearing life jackets, swam to the eastern shore and were eventually picked up by a Natural Resources Police patrol boat. The other two people wearing life jackets stayed with the fifth person who was not wearing a life jacket. These three used two coolers to assist them staying afloat until rescued.
While it is recommended that everyone on board wear a personal floatation device while a vessel is under way, state law requires a child under 7 years of age to wear a life jacket while under way in a vessel that is less than 21 feet in length. In addition, children under 4 years of age and/or less than 50 pounds must have a life jacket equipped with a grab strap, inflatable headrest and crotch strap. The NRP also recommends filing a float plan with a friend or relative.