Fisherman thrown into bay says three would have died without swift rescue

Kevin Lynn Gladhill said group was in 30-degree water for about 10 minutes

February 11, 2011|BY DAN DEARTH |

ST. LEONARD, Md. — One of three Washington County fisherman who were thrown into the frigid Chesapeake Bay when their boat capsized Thursday said they owe their lives to the rescue efforts of other anglers.

"Had Mr. Fleming not been there, we would have died," Kevin Lynn Gladhill, 32, of Boonsboro, said Friday. "There would be three bodies in the morgue."

Gladhill and fellow fishermen, Michael George Krall, 35, of Keedysville, and Russell Uger Neff III, 55, of Boonsboro, were pulled from the water by Dennis Charles Fleming, 51, of Mechanicsville, and Grady Terry Warhurst, 64, of Upper Marlboro.

Gladhill said he, Krall and Neff were in the 30-degree water for about 10 minutes before they were rescued. Hypothermia had set in, and they wouldn't have been able to last much longer, he said.

"Thank God everybody who was there were experienced mariners," Gladhill said. "They knew what to do when things went wrong."

The men were fishing at about 8 a.m. near the Calvert Cliffs Power Plant when the accident occurred. Gladhill said they were fishing in that area because the power plant's warm-water discharge attracts Atlantic striped bass, also known as rockfish.

The wind wasn't supposed to be more than 12 knots, but it ended up being more than twice that strong, he said.

The men were hit by a 5-foot wave that disabled the power in their 21-foot, center-console boat, Gladhill said. A second wave of equal size hit a few seconds later and threw them in the water.

"It was a matter of seconds," he said. "It was boom, boom."

Gladhill said all three men were wearing their life jackets. He said he didn't feel cold in the water because he was so focused on getting to the rescue boat.

The rescuing party took the fishermen to Flag Harbor Marina in St. Leonard, where they were taken to Calvert Memorial Hospital and treated for hypothermia.

By the time they arrived, Gladhill said his core temperature was 97.1 degrees. Neff's temperature was 98.1 degrees and Krall's had dropped to 95 degrees, he said.

"They were concerned about (Krall) because he had fallen so fast," Gladhill said.

The three men were quickly stripped of their clothes and wrapped in blankets, Gladhill said.

Their stay in the hospital was no more than three hours.

"What a phenomenal (hospital) staff," Gladhill said. "They moved as efficiently as efficiently could be."

Gladhill said the three men have fished many times in the bay, and said their brush with fate won't dissuade them from going back.

"It's not going to deter us — it's going to make us more cautious," he said. "We're not going to live in fear just because we had a bad day."

Maryland Natural Resources Police Sgt. Shawn Garren said in a news release that life jackets played a major role in the men's survival.

"The life jackets kept the men afloat in the frigid water until the nearby vessel could respond and essentially save their lives," Garren said in the release.

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