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ROV NEWS: Crews Recover Taxi Boat's Roof; Search For Victims Continues

Posted on 15.03.2004 - 04:31 EST in ROV NEWS by ginamc

VideoRay BALTIMORE ## Crews have recovered a significant portion of the taxi boat that capsized in the Inner Harbor last weekend.

Baltimore City Fire Department Chief William Goodwin announced Friday just before 2 p.m. that crews have recovered the entire covering of the taxi boat, which is made of metal and glass.

Goodwin said though they haven't found the three passengers missing since the tragedy, the find is "the next best thing" and it's "the most significant find of the week."

He said they located the 25-feet-long and 8-feet-wide structure using sonar equipment and verified its identity with a robotic camera (picutred, left). With that image, officials were able to read advertisements on the structure and other writing, Goodwin said.

A barge equipped with a crane (pictured, below right) arrived at the scene later the same afternoon to raise the structure as soon as possible so that the National Transportation Safety Board can investigate. 

Search and rescue teams Friday began their seventh day searching by fighting the weather, the difficult conditions of the harbor and their own frustration and discouragement. Rescue crews will continue to survey the vicinity of where the structure was found.

"We have potentially six important objects that we definitely want to look at," Goodwin said.

Baltimore City Fire Department spokesman Kevin Cartwright said the weather ## windy and cold with high, choppy waves ## was working against the rescue effort.

He said the murky waters and debris strewn floor made for slow-going.

The structure was found near the Lehigh Cement Building, in the northern part of the harbor, Goodwin said. Though much of that area has not yet been searched, crews will continue a widespread search into Friday night, according to Goodwin.

"It is with great emphasis that we hope, as we continue to pinpoint the track of the boat, and now with recovering more and more pieces, by all rules of the path and other rescues we've been on, we will continue to hone in on the area [to search]," Goodwin said.

The fire chief explained the process crews are using to search. He said crews are working to first locate targets, verify targets, then have remote-operated vehicle from the Tyco ship grab hold of the object for a diver to retrieve.

The search crews desperately want to achieve closure for the families of the missing passengers ## a young couple who had hoped to marry and a 6-year-old boy from Virginia.

Cartwright said crews planned to begin Friday's search by using a remote controlled, underwater robot camera operated by the Navy to get clearer images of 14 objects identified by a remote controlled submarine Thursday.

The plan is to narrow those possibilities into probabilities before sending divers into the water for a closer look, Cartwright said.

"To dive for every object that is identified is time consuming and more likely to stress our divers physically and psychologically," said Cartwright.

Missing are Corinne Schillings and Andrew Roccella, both 26, of Alexandria, Va. and Daniel Bentrem, of Harrisonburg, Va.

The missing were among 25 people aboard the Seaport Taxi when it flipped Saturday near historic Fort McHenry in a sudden storm with wind gusts reaching 55 mph. The 36-foot pontoon boat was equipped with lifejackets, but passengers are not required to wear them.

Roccella and Corinne J. Schillings, 26, of Alexandria, Va., planned to marry. They were on the water taxi ride with all four of their parents, who survived. One person remained hospitalized Thursday: 8-year-old Sarah Bentrem of Harrisonburg, Va. She was in critical condition at University of Maryland Medical Center, a hospital spokeswoman said. Sarah is the sister of the missing 6-year-old boy, Daniel. They rode the water taxi with their parents and 7-year-old sister.

In addition to the three missing passengers, who are presumed dead, two others passengers have died.

Lisa Pierce, 34, of Lyndhurst, N.J., died at Harbor Hospital in Baltimore, according to one of her mother's bosses. JoAnn Pierce, 62, of Vineland, N.J., died Saturday.

Diver Kenneth Hydt said the search has been "pretty discouraging."

"We want to bring closure to the families," said the 38-year-old who spent Thursday inspecting six objects crews had hoped were the missing passengers. But those objects turned out to be trees, lumber and dirt after closer inspection.

The rescue effort has been aided by a remote-controlled sub, used by Tyco Corp. to help lay communications cables in the Atlantic Ocean, measures the shape, size and density of objects.

A Tyco crew gives instructions to divers in the water, telling them when to make turns. Divers also have communication with their boat.

Cartwright said the sub will remain part of the search until the bodies are recovered or the effort is called off.

A spokeswoman with Seaport Taxi said their water taxis are not operating again Friday, out of deference to the families of those missing in last week's accident. The spokeswoman said the decision about when to resume operations will be made on a day-to-day basis.

Source: The WBAL Channel
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