Originally published by the Eastern Shore Post on April 28, 2017
With a good crab catch onboard, two Tangier watermen struggled for their lives in the rough waters of the Chesapeake Bay Monday after their work boat, the 40-foot Henrietta C, began to sink quicker than they could bail out the seas. Jason Charnock, 40, the father of four young children, was rescued. But his Dad, Capt. Ed Charnock, 70, remains lost. The search continued at press time Thursday as islanders and others prayed for a miracle. But most were sure a recovery was more likely than another rescue. The two men have worked together since Jason Charnock was a teenager. They were five miles southwest of Tangier in 20-to-30 mph winds with waves of 4 to 6 feet and lots of rain when there was a problem with the bottom of the boat. “They tried to deal with it,” Mayor James “Ooker” Eskridge reported Wednesday. “Whatever happened got worse,” he continued. “It all happened so fast, they didn’t have time to get (life) preservers on.” “There were 12 or 15 crabbing boats looking for them,” the mayor said. “When something like that happens they pull together. My son was out searching also. You couldn’t see anything. There for a time the community thought both were gone. The island was praying … Everybody searched until dark.” “They don’t understand what happened for a boat that large to go that quick. They were taking on some water, which boats have done before. … They just couldn’t keep up with it. They had to get off the boat. I think the boat stayed a float for a while. They held on to the bow … by that time, they were so cold hypothermia had set in. Jason, I guess being the younger guy, was able to hold on longer.” The incident occurred at 2:30 p.m., Monday. Conditions made visibility difficult. Other crabbers had been in the vicinity, but had already left for port when the Charnocks began to have difficulties. Jason Charnock’s father-in-law, Lonnie Moore, who works on a tugboat, was at the dock and went to find the missing men. An EMT went along with him. Eskridge said the survivor “told the crew … that he could have gone a little longer. He was just trying to keep his head above water. He was in the water for 1½ to 2 hours. Sixty degree water sounds warm but hypothermia can set it. His age and a lot of prayer” saved him, Eskridge added. The Coast Guard sent its 45-foot boat from Station Crisfield, the crew of the 87-foot cutter Cochito, a Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City rescue helicopter crew and an aircrew from Naval Air Station Patuxent River. The mayor reflected on the lost man. “He was a humble guy. A gentle man. Comical. He would joke with the other guys. He was well loved by everyone. Very easy going … he’s going to be missed greatly.” Eskridge said the last time such a tragedy occurred was about 12 years ago. “They never recovered his body or the boat.” Of Charnock, he said, “His body will probably show up somewhere. The family is just hoping sooner or later … As it settles down they will decide what to do about the boat. It was quite traumatic for him.” Jason Charnock “definitely needs the boat,” Eskridge said. Laurie Naismith of the Virginia Marine Resources Commission said Wednesday the agency has “a boat out today as well as our airplane and that will continue. We can’t use the side scan sonar because the water is too rough with the waves and the wind. When it calms down, we will do that,” she said. At press time, the Coast Guard has suspended operations, but VMRC was continuing the search, along with area watermen.