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Baltimore will spend additional $51,000 for life rings and ladders to help prevent Inner Harbor drownings

Jim Schroeder smooths the tape after posting one of several photos of his son, Ryan, near the scene where he drowned in the Inner Harbor on Feb. 1, 2018. Jim and his wife, Anne, have campaigned for safety railings to prevent further drownings.
Jim Schroeder smooths the tape after posting one of several photos of his son, Ryan, near the scene where he drowned in the Inner Harbor on Feb. 1, 2018. Jim and his wife, Anne, have campaigned for safety railings to prevent further drownings. (Amy Davis / Baltimore Sun)

Baltimore’s Department of Transportation will spend an additional $51,000 to install safety equipment around the Inner Harbor to keep people from drowning in its waters.

That’s on top of an initial $116,400 approved by the Board of Estimates in May. The latest money will go towards life rings and ladders, according to the Board of Estimates, which approved the measure Wednesday.

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This increase will bring the city’s total contract with Marine Technologies Inc. to $181,200. The contract expires April 30.

The city committed to the safety measures last year after Ryan Schroeder, a 26-year-old Vermont man, died in February 2018 after falling into the harbor. He struggled in the frigid water for about 40 minutes before rescue workers were able to pull him out. His parents visited Baltimore and begged city officials to increase the number of safety features around the waterfront.

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Baltimore has committed to spending roughly $125,000 to install safety equipment around the Inner Harbor following pleas from the parents of a 26-year-old man who died earlier this year after falling into the frigid waters.

Since August, the city has installed 16 ladders and 35 emergency life ring stations around the water, specifically in areas near bars and with high foot traffic.

There were no guardrails in the area where Schroeder fell, and the nearest ladder or life ring was across the water, by the National Aquarium. If those elements had been in place on the day of his son’s fall, Jim Schroeder said last year, “it would’ve given us a totally alternate life.”

The Schroeder family is the latest in a line of people who, spurred by personal tragedy, have lobbied the city to increase safety measures around Baltimore’s harbor.

David Thomas’ 29-year-old son, Evan Curbeam, was found in the harbor near Fells Point. Thomas slammed the city in 2014 for not taking actions that would prevent people from falling in.

The problem has existed for decades. In 1982, a 13-year-old girl in a wheelchair rolled into the water and drowned. A blind man nearly died two years later after tumbling into the cold water.

More than 50 bodies have been found in the Inner Harbor since 2000, according to local crime researcher Ellen Worthing. Among them were homeless people, tourists and those who live on houseboats. Police have said alcohol was a factor in several cases.

It happened as recently as last month, when the body of 25-year-old Federal Hill nurse Alexandra Carroll was found in the water.

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