Rafters plucked from the Ohio

PARKERSBURG – Two Maryland men were up the creek without a paddle Tuesday morning when authorities found them floating on a makeshift raft on the Ohio River near Blennerhassett Island.

Quinn Louis Porter, 21, Elkridge, and Tyler Blaine Jennings, 22, Annapolis, were cited for no personal flotation devices and possession of fishing paraphernalia without a license, respectively, according to the citations from the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources in Wood County Magistrate Court.

The incident happened around 11:15 a.m. Tuesday during a rainstorm.

A barge from Joe S. Towing was nearing the area and radioed the Island Belle about a boat in the middle of the channel, Island Belle Capt. Gary Kitchen said. The barge stopped before reaching the area near the boat ramp at Civitan Park, he said.

Kitchen said he pulled the Island Belle, which ferries passengers to Blennerhassett Island, alongside the raft, a piece of dock with barrel floats, to see if the riders were OK.

“That didn’t seem very well thought out,” Kitchen said.

One of the men apparently gave the first officer on the Island Belle a thumbs up and said they were going to Cincinnati, Kitchen said.

“Of course, that didn’t fly with us,” said DNR Capt. David Trader.

The other person was under a tarp and didn’t come out from underneath it, Paula Sellers, a volunteer on Blennerhassett Island who was aboard the Island Belle, said. Sellers said she was amazed nothing happened to the pair, which appeared to be using a board as their rudder.

“It didn’t seem like they had any means of propulsion,” Sellers said.

The raft was unpowered, Trader said. Trader said he and DNR Sgt. Chris McKnight responded and removed the pair from the river while Belpre police secured the make-shift raft on the shore.

It was a hazardous situation, Trader said. The river was swift and with debris, it was pouring rain and the raft was in the middle of the navigation channel, Trader said.