By Carol Vaughn —
The Chincoteague community responded this week with an outpouring of search assistance, prayers, food, fundraisers, and more as the search continued for a missing 17-year-old, after a boat carrying a group of four young men going duck hunting took on water and capsized Saturday morning off Chincoteague.
Two people were rescued and one victim’s body was recovered after the incident.
Mayor Arthur Leonard spoke about the tragedy in a telephone interview Wednesday.
“The island is devastated. Even though the young man was a visitor, there’s been so much outpouring of local concern. Anytime somebody goes down in the water around here, everybody reacts to it,” Leonard said.
He said many residents have joined in the search effort.
“There were folks the day of the event, they stopped what they were doing and helped to try to recover the boat and do what they could do,” Leonard said, adding, “It’s just heartbreaking.”
Eyewitnesses reported the 16-foot jon boat was struck by a wave around 9:20 a.m. Saturday, causing the boat to capsize in Chincotague Bay near Curtis Merritt Harbor, according to the Virginia Marine Police.
All four people went into the water.
Leonard, who also was out hunting Saturday, said, “We stopped and packed all of our stuff up and came down and helped look.”
A Good Samaritan was able to rescue two people, an adult man and a 17-year-old male, who had remained with the boat. Both were transported to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
The United States Coast Guard recovered the body of Corey Alles, of Bentonville, Va.
Matthew Rogers, VMRC chief of law enforcement, in a press release Sunday night said crews would resume the search for the remaining victim Monday morning, both by sea and by air.
The Virginia Marine Police, Virginia Port Authority, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, Virginia Beach Police, Virginia Beach Fire, Chesapeake Police, Chincoteague Police, and Accomack County Sheriff’s Office participated in Sunday’s search.
No additional updates have been released since Sunday.
Teaguer’s Pub and Restaurant, on Chincoteague, has been providing food and coffee to searchers and spearheading fundraising efforts, including planning a benefit event at the restaurant this Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m.
There will be food, entertainment, and auction of donated items, including baskets, gift certificates and more, according to volunteer Tracey Fangman. The event also will be livestreamed on Facebook, she said.
Fangman together with Teaguer’s is accepting donations to help the victims’ families with funeral expenses. Call the restaurant at 757-336-7237.
Fangman said donations “have been pouring in,” with $5,000 collected in just a day and a half, including from residents of the Shore and of the boys’ hometown, Front Royal.
“We want to raise at least 30K by Sunday night. Honestly showing up to support these families is the best thing,” a post Wednesday on Teaguer’s Facebook page said.
Donations of baskets of items to auction would be welcomed, including baskets filled with items fitting themes, such as snacks, wine, car wash, children’s, margaritas, crab feast, or game night, among other suggestions.
The hashtag #lovelightandhopeforNathan is being used by supporters, referring to Nathan Jenkins, identified in social media posts as the missing victim.
Authorities remain committed to bringing closure to the victim’s family, according to Rogers.
The winter storm presented unfavorable weather conditions for boating at the time of the incident, with water temperatures in the low 40’s, air temperature in the low 20’s, and wind gusts ranging from 12 to 15 miles per hour.
The identity of the missing 17-year old was not yet being disclosed by the Virginia Marine Police.
The Coast Guard, Virginia Marine Police, Virginia State Police, Maryland State Police, and the Chincoteague Police Department are assisting with the investigation.