Dwyer's boat going 'full throttle,' accident witness says

A witness told 911 operators the boat piloted by an admittedly drunk Del. Donald H. Dwyer was "flying [at] what seemed like full throttle" before colliding with another vessel, seriously injuring seven people, including four children.

On 911 recordings released Tuesday and in interviews, neighbors who helped with the subsequent rescue described a bloody scene, screaming children, people tossed into the air and a boat ripped by the impact with Dwyer's motorboat, The Legislator.

No one has been faulted in the Wednesday evening accident on the Magothy River that sent Dwyer, the pilot of the other boat and the children to the hospital. All were released late last week, investigators said, adding they did not know how fast either boat was traveling.

Through a spokeswoman, Dwyer declined to comment Tuesday.

While Natural Resources Police continue to reconstruct the accident — preliminary reports could be ready by week's end, they said — 911 recordings and interviews describe what appeared to be a head-on collision that spurred a Pasadena neighborhood into rescue mode.

Allen Woytowitz said he had just wandered down his pier and was admiring the glassy water when he saw two vessels on an apparent collision course. One appeared to be moving more slowly as it towed two children on a tube; the other — a motorboat with a flame on the side — seemed to be at full throttle.

"It seemed like they were so close, why didn't one of them slow down?" Woytowitz said in an interview, recalling what he was thinking at the time. At the last moment, one boat veered to the right. "Just before the impact, I thought, 'He's made it.' "

Then he saw two people launched airborne.

His neighbor, Lisa Willis, had just returned from a spinning class and was making a chicken dinner when a loud crunch sent her running toward the water, then sprinting along the bulkhead and leaping over shrubbery to reach her neighbor's pier.

A few doors down, Andrew Wendell heard a crash as he was steaming the crabs he had caught with lines baited by a neighborhood child, the same one he would find minutes later bleeding on the floor of a boat that looked as though it had been peeled back like the lid of a sardine can.

"It was excruciating to hear, but the screams afterward were awful," Wendell said. "Wrenching, actually."

Wendell was determined to use his boat as the rescue vessel. By the time he had started unloading his crabbing gear, Willis, a nurse, had jumped aboard. Woytowitz, who was on the phone with 911, had also climbed into Wendell's boat. The trio rushed to help, unaware their neighbors and a state legislator were among the wounded.

"Your heart goes out to them," Wendell said.

On redacted 911 recordings released Tuesday, children's screams can be heard as a collected Woytowitz stays on the line with the dispatcher while he, Wendell and Willis brought to shore five children and two adults.

Their neighbor's face was so bloody that at first the trio didn't recognize Randy Harbin and his 18.5-foot Bayliner.

"We pulled up, and I looked up at his eyes — he has piercing blue eyes," Willis said. "His face was covered in blood."

The children, she said, kept asking whether they were dying. Woytowitz's 911 call captured the sounds of the rescue: wails and adults trying to comfort the children by saying, "Don't worry, don't worry."

The 911 call also recorded Woytowitz assuring the dispatcher another set of good Samaritans had rescued Dwyer and his passenger as The Legislator began to sink near the shore of Gibson Island.

Dwyer had been staying in the Long Point neighborhood with his father, whose home sits on a cove not far from the accident.

Bandaged and in a wheelchair Thursday, Dwyer announced in a news conference that his blood alcohol level was 0.2 percent after the accident, more than twice the legal limit. Since then, Dwyer has not commented on the crash. His legislative aide said Tuesday that Dwyer's lawyer advised him not to make further public remarks.

At least a half-dozen other neighbors also called 911. Others couldn't get through quickly because of the volume of calls. Neighbors set out water for paramedics. While people are often watching the waterway, accidents are rare.

"There's always some kind of activity on the river," said Deborah Wienhold, who briefly put on "Jurassic Park" to entertain one of the children who was not hurt. She recalled only one other significant boating accident in the 10 years she has lived on Grandview Road.

"For the most part, people are very respectful," she said.

Michael Babinec grew up on the street and said people are accustomed to seeing boats zip by at all speeds. On weeknights, boat traffic has no speed limit.

"Everybody out here has a pier, and everyone's doing something with" the water, Babinec said. "A boat can sneak up on you real quick. Unless you're really paying attention, you can get hurt."

Last week, Wendell's backyard became the triage center where paramedics initially treated all the injured boaters.

It was there that Willis' mother, Janet Bemkey, cradled a 4-year-old girl who police said suffered a minor skull fracture in the accident.

"The little girl was saying, 'I'm never going to get in a boat again.'" Bemkey said. "I said, "Oh, everything is going to be OK.' "



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