A commercial fishing boat that sank off the coast of Maryland was barred from operating with passengers until officials deemed it seaworthy again, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.
That didn’t stop the captain from taking dozens of paying passengers out over Father’s Day weekend, officials said.
At least 34 people had to be rescued on June 19 when the boat — Fishing Lady — began taking on water in the Eastern Bay, the Coast Guard said in a news release Tuesday. Now the captain has been arrested.
Terrance Dale Roy is accused of violating a U.S. Coast Guard Captain of the Port Order that prohibited him from operating the commercial fishing boat. He’s also accused of failing to report a hazardous condition and operating the boat in a “grossly negligent manner,” the Coast Guard said.
Roy faces up to six years in prison on each of the two felony charges and one year in prison on the misdemeanor charge.
According to the release, Fishing Lady sank in May at a pier in Kent Narrows — a community about an hour east of Washington, D.C. surrounded by the Chester River and Eastern Bay.
The Coast Guard subsequently issued a Captain of the Port Order that prevented Fishing Lady from operating commercially until professionals could determine its seaworthiness.
“Without making the repairs necessary to have the order removed and ensure the safety of the vessel, Roy proceeded to take (34) paying passengers out over Father’s Day weekend,” the Coast Guard said. “Due to the substandard condition of the vessel, it began taking on water which was unable to be removed using the vessel’s bilge pumps.”
Multiple volunteer fire departments had to rescue everyone on board, according to the release.
Rescue boats from at least five different agencies responded to the scene near Tilghman Point in Eastern Bay around 9:30 a.m. June 19, the Grasonville Volunteer Fire Department said in a Facebook post.
All passengers were removed from the sinking boat and taken to nearby Wells Cove on fire and rescue boats while some officials stayed behind to help Roy get the Fishing Lady back to shore safely.
One passenger was taken to the hospital for a “cardiac evaluation,” the fire department said.
According to the Coast Guard’s release, further investigation showed there may have been other violations “concerning the substandard conditions of the vessel, proper documentation for commercial service and operation without a license.”
Cmdr. Baxter Smoak, chief of prevention for Coast Guard Sector Maryland-National Capital Region, said paying charter boat passengers should always ask to see a captain’s license and their certificate of inspection.
“Illegal passenger vessel operators pose a significant danger to the public and adversely impact legitimate operators who comply with federal safety requirements,” he said in the news release. “The Captain of the Port Orders issued to the Fishing Lady were intended to protect the public.”
In addition to criminal prosecution, the Coast Guard said anyone who owns or operates an illegal passenger-for-hire operation faces fines of $2,500 to over $95,000.
Individuals can report suspected illegal charters to the nearest Coast Guard command center.