Ga. boat ramp collapse injures 17

Most of the injured people were senior citizens; EMS providers transported six to hospitals


Gordon Jackson
The Brunswick News

ST. MARY'S, Ga. — Ed Zdarko is lucky he was one of the stragglers preparing to board a boat for a two-hour cruise Tuesday morning on the St. Marys River.

Zdarko, a resident of Titusville, Pennsylvania, was among a group of Navy veterans who met in St. Marys for a reunion of crew members from the USS Angler, an old diesel submarine commissioned in 1942 and decommissioned in 1968.

He was standing near the boat ramp gangway when it collapsed with about 20 people on it, dropping about 10 feet into the water.

Seventeen were injured, mostly elderly, six of whom were transported to hospitals in the region with more severe injuries.

"I was on the boardwalk when it went down," Zdarko said. "Maybe six people made it across the ramp."

Witnesses said they heard a loud noise as the walkway collapsed into the river. The majority of the estimated 20 people on the ramp ended up in the water.

It was challenging for paramedics to put the injured on stretchers and move them from the collapsed ramp to waiting ambulances.

Keith Post, a retired Navy senior chief and manager of the St. Marys Submarine Museum, helped organize the cruise for the veterans. Post said he wasn't there when the ramp collapsed, but he had a bad feeling when he saw emergency vehicles headed to the waterfront about the time the boat would have been leaving for the tour.

His fear was one of the veterans or their spouses had a heart attack or other medical emergency.

"I was rushing there to wish them bon voyage," he said.

Gary Ingram, superintendent of Cumberland Island National Seashore, said he talked with a man who grabbed his wife and another woman just as they were preparing to step on the ramp as it collapsed.

Ingram said he invited the veterans who were not injured to stay in a National Park Service building where they would be in air conditioning and have access to cold water.

The Park Service headquarters also served as a comfort, triage station where some of the injured were treated and investigators could talk with witnesses, he said.

St. Marys Mayor John Morrissey said it's too early to tell why the ramp, which is owned by the city, collapsed.

"Our first concern is the injuries," he said.

The piers and boat ramps located on the St. Marys River at St. Marys Street (and Wheeler Street) will be closed to the public for a short but undetermined amount of time. The closure is to allow engineers the opportunity to inspect the pier and make appropriate corrections to prevent further incidents.

Agencies responding to provide support included the Camden County Fire Rescue, Camden County Sheriff's Office, Kings Bay Fire Rescue, Camden County Emergency Management and the National Park Service. T

City Manager Robbie Horton said the city recognizes and acknowledges the first responders who did an exceptional job responding, assessing and providing emergency assistance to everyone involved in the incident.

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(c)2022 The Brunswick News 

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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