A good Samaritan rescued more than 20 people, including elementary school students, after their charter boat sank in the Chesapeake Bay, authorities said.
The boat was in a prohibited area when a distress call went out Wednesday evening, according to Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class David Marin. He said the area was off-limits because of obstructions in the water.
Officials said the boat struck something that was submerged.
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, which owns the 40-foot vessel, said 14 students were among 23 people rescued, although the Coast Guard said 22 people were rescued.
The students were fourth-graders from Kent School in Chestertown, Maryland, on a field trip as part of the school's bay studies science curriculum, according to admissions director Tricia Cammerzell. Everyone associated with the school was taken to a hospital as a precaution and released Wednesday night.
The U.S. Coast Guard said it received an alert with a GPS locator and a distress call: "Mayday, mayday, mayday. This is the motor vessel Karen N. We have sunk off of Bloodsworth Island." Communications were soon lost, the Coast Guard said in a statement.
Boat and helicopter crews were launched but a waterman arrived, took the boaters aboard and brought them to shore in the Maryland community of Wingate, where they were transferred to EMS personnel.
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"People responded from everywhere, but it's hard to get to Bloodsworth Island," said Maryland Natural Resources Police spokeswoman Candy Thomson. "That waterman was the nearest and managed to pick them all up."
Chesapeake Bay Foundation President William Baker said five people were taken to hospitals with minor injuries, while Thompson said three were hospitalized. There were no immediate explanations for these discrepancies.
The charter boat captain was among those hospitalized. Everyone has since been treated and released, according to foundation spokesman John Surrick.
The foundation offers educational programs that take students out on the bay, Surrick said.
Everyone on board was wearing a life preserver and has been accounted for, according to Lt j.g. Issac Yates, a command duty officer at the Sector Maryland-National Capital Region command center.
The life preservers "greatly enhanced their survivability," Yates said.
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation will conduct a review of the accident and is cooperating with the Coast Guard, according to Baker. He declined to comment on the boat's location, saying that would be part of the investigation.
Bloodsworth Island and two other islands form the boundary for the Tangier Sound near the mouth of the bay. It was purchased by the Navy in 1942 and used as a training ground for surface forces and aircraft, according to the Maryland Department of the Environment.