Body of Cobb Island Crabber-Fireman recovered
The search for a crabeater missing from his boat on the Potomac River reached a tragic conclusion.
Doug Hands, a 49-year-old waterman and longtime volunteer firefighter, did not return from his trip on the water Wednesday night, and several agencies launched a search off Cobb Island. His boat was later found across the Potomac in Westmoreland County, Virginia.
The Coast Guard launched several boat and helicopter crews, and more than a dozen other agencies also searched. On Thursday morning, the Coast Guard suspended their search after 35 hours on the water, covering 663 square miles.
But some of the other agencies continued their research when weather permitted, despite the harsh conditions presented by Friday’s storm. The Cobb Island Volunteer Fire Department and EMS, where Hands was a firefighter for 32 years and a life member, announced that his body was found on Saturday, October 30 at 2:15 p.m.
The VFD issued a statement saying, “The Hands family as well as the Cobb Island Volunteer Fire Department and EMS would like to express our sincere gratitude and thanks to ALL resources who assisted us during the search. We ask you to continue to keep the Hands family and their firefighting family in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult and tragic time. “
The fire department has published a long list of agencies that have assisted in the search for Hands, in addition to several private citizens searching from the docks and by boat. Calls for research volunteers have spread on social media, and many have said Hands knows the river inside and out, which is surprising for him not to have returned home.
One of those who helped with the effort was Jason Jones, a longtime friend and colleague Waterman, who assembled a small search team when he learned Hands had gone missing on Wednesday night. Hearing that Hands’ 22-foot center console was found empty, he says they “felt like it wasn’t good.”
Jones had seen Hands earlier that same day, selling him bait for crabbing and talking in Jones’ aisle. Jones was taking a day off from the water, he said, because the weather was rough. He says Bay Bulletin he encouraged Hands to wait for better weather on Thursday (“No need to rush in there today; you might as well wait until tomorrow”), but Hands wanted to get an extra day’s work. Hands had repaired the 22-foot boat that belonged to his father after his father’s death, and recently moved from part-time to full-time boatman. Hands was looking to improve his boat, Jones tells us, and had gone to see a larger boat that morning.
When Jones and Hands’ other friends learned that he had been retrieved from the Potomac, Jones knew he wanted to help the waterman’s family. Hands is survived by his wife, Tammy, and a six year old girl. In a post that has since been shared 400 times, Jones offered a crab feast raffle, offering a bushel of cooked crabs, a bushel of oysters, a 12-beer pack and a 12-soda pack. After just 24 hours, supporters in Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania had bought at least 350 chances at $ 20 per chance, or offered cash donations.
Jones will continue to sell crab raffle odds until Friday, drawing a winner that night to enjoy the crab feast this weekend. He plans to hand over a check to Hands’ family on Saturday. Anyone wishing to participate by Friday November 5th or to make a donation can contact Jones at 921 240-216-4218 or Venmo @ Jason-Jones921.
Jones says he’s blown away by the generosity of people inside and outside the Cobb Island community.
–Meg Walburn Viviano