Local Response to Navy Aircraft Crash Hailed At Chincoteague Council Meeting

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By Carol Vaughn —

Police Chief R. K. Fisher and Emergency Services Director Bryan Rush thanked Chincoteague first responders and local boaters, including Mayor J. Arthur Leonard and his son, for their efforts in searching for military personnel after a Navy E-2D aircraft on a routine training flight crashed in the waters north of Chincoteague on March 30.

Two men were injured but survived and one died as result of the crash.

“They were key in helping us accomplish what needed to be accomplished. It could not have been done without those folks,” Rush said about the boaters.

“I just want to go on the record and thank everybody that worked Wednesday night (after the crash),” Leonard said, adding, “Being in the middle of it you see how smooth and what our community does.”

He called Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company responders “Johnny-on-the-spot,” saying, “They were fast-acting, used their heads, and adapted to the situation.”

Leonard noted the water temperature at the time was 47 degrees.

“It doesn’t take long at 47 degrees for hypothermia to set in. It was just a matter of minutes before the two were found and brought back to the ambulance that was standing by, waiting to take them.
 Leonard updated the council on the condition of one crewman who suffered serious injuries in the crash, saying he is improving and his parents have flown in from California to be with him.

Leonard also credited Maryland first responders, including a diver from Ocean City who “played a major part in the recovery” of the deceased crew member.

Councilwoman Denise Bowden, a CVFC member and spokesperson, called Chincoteague’s first responders “the best of the best,” citing their response to the crash.

Additionally, she said, “The local people that responded on their own in their boats, that know up the bay like nobody else knows it — I tell you, it’s such a tragic accident to happen, but I couldn’t be more proud to live where I live and see these people do what they do all day long.”

Storage Facility in Residential Area Turned Down
The Chincoteague Town Council at its April 4 meeting turned down an application for a permit to build a commercial storage facility off Daisey Street.

Reginald E. Stubbs Jr. had applied for a conditional use permit to construct a commercial storage facility on property zoned R-3 (mixed use residential).

The Chincoteague Planning Commission after conducting a public hearing in March voted unanimously to not recommend the Town Council approve the application.

Ray Rosenberger, planning commission chairman, said the fact that the property is adjacent to Hallie Whealton Smith Nature Trail, traffic issues in the area, concerns from residents about lighting and 24-7 access to the facility, lack of submission of a stormwater management plan, and incompatibility with the surrounding area were of concern to the planning commission.

Additionally, it would require “a significant amount of fill” — around three feet — to construct the facility, he said.

Five people at the Town Council public hearing at the April 4 meeting spoke against approving the application.

Ken Webb, who lives across the street from the property, said he was concerned about the proximity to the nature trail, increased traffic, all-night lighting, vermin being attracted to the storage units, and safety of students coming and going from the nearby school.
Additionally, “Stormwater runoff is a concern,” he said.

The facility could lower property values, according to Webb.

Rosie Moot also spoke against the facility and said it could set a precedent for other residential areas of town. She referenced a petition with 336 signatures of people opposed to the facility.

George Meekins, Harriet Nettles, and Susan Carmody also spoke against the facility.

Town Manager Mike Tolbert also read into the record a letter from Paula Nees, who was against the project.

Town Manager’s Report
Tolbert in his report to council spoke about a recent inspection of the Chincoteague Civic Center, which for the first time is part of town government.

The inspection was to identify and prioritize needed improvements. “The HVAC system is certainly in need of improvement and is first on our list,” he said.

After Tolbert and Public Works Director Harvey Spurlock met with a representative of TRANE, a plan was developed to replace the current components with a simpler, more reliable and economical system, Tolbert said.

Additionally, the center needs a new audiovisual system to make it more useful for local events and more attractive to potential customers, he said.

They also met with a contractor who inspected the Civic Center and municipal building roofs and since developed a plan to repair both roofs, without incurring the cost of a complete roof replacement.

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