Maryland Rescue Crews Map Baltimore Harbor for Recovery

The water in Baltimore Harbor was calmer Tuesday and the discovery of debris offered new clues as search crews worked to pinpoint where three people missing from a water taxi accident went down.


BALTIMORE (AP) -- The water in Baltimore Harbor was calmer Tuesday and the discovery of debris offered new clues as search crews worked to pinpoint where three people missing from a water taxi accident went down.

Crews expected the warmer and brighter weather to help their efforts, said Fire Department Chief William Goodwin.

On Monday, crews could spend only limited time in the cold and choppy water. But they still managed to find the vessel's ladder and part of its railing and feel they have narrowed the search area, Goodwin said Tuesday.

``We're getting to an area where bigger pieces of debris are, that would have fallen off as the boat capsized,'' he said.

Referring to the search for bodies, he said, ``In my 28 years, we've never left anybody out there, but we've never had a debris field this big. So, we're becoming comfortable that we're narrowing in on the area.''

Crews are still looking for the boat's flat, canopy-type roof.

One person was killed and three _ a couple who planned to marry and a 6-year-old boy _ disappeared when the 36-foot pontoon boat overturned Saturday during a sudden thunderstorm that brought gusts of up to 55 mph. The boat was equipped with life jackets, but passengers are not required to wear them.

Searchers met early Tuesday and made maps of the area, marking off sections of the harbor that they have already covered.

Firefighters also made progress in interviewing witnesses about where the missing people might have gone under, Goodwin said.

Federal safety officials also want to know if the crew told the 23 passengers to put on life jackets after learning of the threatening weather Saturday.

The water taxi's owner radioed the captain, Francis O. Deppner that a thunderstorm was approaching and he started for shore, said Ellen Engleman-Conners, chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board.

``There was a report of communication between the owner-operator of the vessel and the vessel concerning the weather,'' she said.

She said officials interviewed about 10 witnesses Monday, including Navy reservists who helped rescue victims.

Officials planned to retrace the water taxi's route through the harbor on Tuesday, Engleman-Conners said.

Besides investigating the response of the crew to word of the storm, the NTSB was checking the boat's records, which showed no major accidents, Engleman-Conners said. Deppner's license was found to be valid, and an initial inspection of the boat found that the steering system appeared to be intact, she said.

The boat was scheduled to be removed Tuesday from the water for a hull inspection at a boatyard.

Killed in the accident was JoAnn Pierce, 60, of Cumberland County, N.J., according to The Daily Journal of Vineland, N.J.

The missing were identified by relatives and media reports as Corinne Schillings, 26, of Illinois; her fiance, Andrew Roccella, 26, of Virginia; and Daniel Bentrem, 6, of Virginia.

Five people remained in hospitals Monday. An 8-year-old girl and a 30-year-old woman were in critical condition.