Responding to public criticism, the superintendent of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Police defended on Monday fines against two men who rescued a deer from the icy Patapsco River.
The men were each fined $90 for not having life vests aboard the inflatable boat they used to reach the trapped animal Thursday.
"Unfortunately, the citizens involved disregarded the orders of numerous public safety officers on the scene — including Baltimore County Police and Fire Officers as well as the NRP — by entering the icy waters on an inflatable raft and remaining in the water after being ordered back to shore," Col. George Johnson said in a statement.
"Contrary to widespread reports," he added, "the raft was not equipped with the legally required safety equipment. Given the conditions of the water, what began with an animal in distress could have quickly led to a human tragedy, requiring an emergency response that could have endangered even more lives.
"I have full confidence that the officer on the scene performed his duties as required by law. We are all very grateful that there was ultimately a safe outcome — for the citizens and the deer."
Jim Hart, 46, of Carroll County and Khalil Abusakran, 33, of Baltimore County have vowed to fight the fines in court in February.