ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Sunken skiff passengers cited for underage drinking

by Nash Jenkins
Thursday, July 7, 2011


Three young men and two young women face legal consequences for underage drinking after their skiff sank inland near Wrightsville Beach on Tuesday, July 5. One of the young men was hospitalized that day due to his intoxication; a warrant stands for his arrest for boating while impaired.

Shortly after 2:30 p.m. a man on a Jet Ski, George Neikens of Harrisburg, Pa., who was vacationing in Kure Beach, flagged down the crew of the 65-foot Coast Guard cutter Bayberry, which was en route from Southport to the U.S. Coast Guard Station Wrightsville Beach. The man pointed the crew’s attention to the 16-foot skiff belonging to the teenagers, drifting from the middle of the Intracoastal Waterway to shallower water. They were just north of the Carolina Beach inlet crossing, roughly 10 miles south of Wrightsville Beach.

Upon approaching the vessel, the Bayberry’s crew observed that five of the six passengers on the skiff were drunk; one was unconscious. At this time, the cause of his unconsciousness is unknown, but CPR by a Bayberry officer resuscitated the 19-year-old, whose identity has not yet been released by officials.

“[The young man] was recovered from the water by his own vessel prior to our arrival, but at this point we’re not sure what directly rendered him unconscious,” Senior Chief Petty Officer Christopher Groom, officer-in-charge of the Bayberry, said by telephone on Thursday afternoon, July 7.

CPR performed by Seaman’s Apprentice Alex Fry, a crew member on the Bayberry, resuscitated the 19-year-old, whose identity has not yet been released by officials. 

“If Fry had not administered CPR, the young man would have most likely passed on,” Groom said.

A news release from the Coast Guard states that the young man quickly grew belligerent upon resuscitation, leading to the sinking of the skiff.

In the news report Groom, the officer-in-charge of the Bayberry, said “He became aggressive and started fighting with everyone aboard the skiff.”

Another passenger aboard the skiff became non-compliant as well.

By this point, the Bayberry had requested and received Coast Guard and legal backup, said Chief Dan Murray at the U.S. Coast Guard Station Wrightsville Beach. A 41-foot Coast Guard Utility Boat and motorboat operated by the Marine Unit of the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Department were on the scene to tow the submerged skiff and recover four of the teenagers.

The sheriff carried the previously unconscious teenager and the other belligerent young man to the USCG Station Wrightsville Beach; the Bayberry carried the remaining four.

Emergency medical services transported the resuscitated young man to a local hospital; sheriff’s department officials were unsure which facility treated him.

A New Hanover County Sheriff’s Deputy cited four of the five young adults with underage drinking. The parents of one of the young men recovered the skiff from law enforcement officials.

Shortly thereafter, sheriff’s department officials issued a warrant for the arrest of the young man transported from the scene by medical services. He is charged with boating while impaired; the warrant is still outstanding. Officer F. Gorches of the North Carolina Division of Wildlife Services is investigating the incident.

The accident was the first of two boating accidents in local waters this week. On the morning of Thursday, July 7, three men sustained minor injuries after their boat capsized on the oceanside of Rich’s Inlet, north of Figure 8 Island. A Sea Tow crew pulled the boat and boaters to safety.

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