Driver of boat caught on-camera fist fighting with a passenger could face negilent boating charge

Police say passengers are lucky no one was hurt
Posted at 6:19 PM, Jul 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-27 10:33:28-04

The fight happened Saturday afternoon on a rental boat cruising the Choptank River near Cambridge.  Volunteers working the Cambridge Yacht Club Fun Regatta started recording with their cellphones after the power boat drove into the course, veering alarmingly close to sailboats in the race. 

Then they noticed two people onboard were having a nasty fist fight.  The video shows punch after punch to the face.  You can hear passengers screaming, some of them trying to break up the brawl between two men.

"We now have a fight on board the vessel, and we're gonna have two drunk people in the water pretty soon,” one witness says on the video.

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That group of witnesses taped the out of control brawl and called authorities.

"There was just blows were flying and we were trying to contact the Coast Guard to tell them what was going on,” Daryl Newhouse told ABC 2 News over the phone.  “And it just got very scary because it looked like somebody was about to go into the water any second."

She says the group of six completely ignored calls from her boat.

"Hey you guys, the police and the coast guard have been called," Newhouse said.                    

But the argument didn't stop.  At one point, one of the men can be seen swinging the boat's broken VHF antenna at the other man.

The Coast Guard, Cambridge Police and Natural Resources Police were all there when the group docked.

"Clearly no one was in control of that boat, clearly the throttle was pushed forward so the boat was moving, there were other boats in the area,” Natural Resources Police Spokesperson Candy Thomson said.  “This could have gone horribly wrong, one of the two gentlemen fighting could have fallen over, he could have been hit by the propeller, he could have been run over, he could have drowned."

The power boat turned out to be a rental.  And the two people involved in the fist fight were the boat's 21-year-old driver and his 19-year-old brother.  No charges were pressed, and Thomson told ABC2 News the group paid $3,000 in cash for the damage they caused to the craft.

"There's so many bad things that could have come out of that, I don't think they realize how lucky they are to all be in one piece," Thomson said.

Natural Resources Police say they've spoken with everyone who was onboard the boat, except for the operator.  Because he wasn't at the scene when officers were there Saturday, the 21-year-old was not sobriety tested.  It's not clear alcohol played a role in the fight.

The driver of the boat could still be facing negligent boating charges from Natural Resources Police and the Coast Guard.  The state charge comes with a $500 fine, and a federal charge could be up to a $5,000 fine.

ABC2 News showed video of the dangerous fight to local boaters.  They say it should be a lesson about what not to do when out on the water.

"That's obviously just terrible from all sorts of different perspectives,” said Kristen Berry with J World Annapolis.  “We teach boater safety here at the sailing school, both for power boats and for sailboats, and the list of things that shouldn't happen there is longer then we have time to talk about."

"Wear your PDFs, turn off a vehicle, I mean, if your boating around and there's a chance that someone could fall in on the water, that's real serious," Ted Green said.

"I don't think anyone planned for this to happen,” Newhouse said.  “But it was incredibly poor judgment on the part of the people who rented this boat not to plan for safety."        

Officials say boating safety needs to be taken seriously.  So far this season, there have been seven boating fatalities in the state.  In 2015, Maryland saw a 20-year high for boating fatalities with 21 people losing their lives on the water.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to reflect the fact that the driver of the boat could still be facing charges from the Natural Resources Police and the Coast Guard. 

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