More than a dozen people were dumped in the water near the Route 50 bridge early Thursday afternoon, when their rental pontoon capsized after running up against a part of the bridge.

Witnesses said the boat, estimated to be between 18 and 20 feet in length and carrying 15 passengers, was caught in a strong outgoing tide exacerbated by wakes and was pushed up against the bridge by the draw span.

Apparently, as the boat hit the bridge, all the passengers rushed to the other side of the boat, causing water to flood over its outboard rails, witnesses said. The weight of the water and the people on one side of the craft caused it to flip over on top of its occupants.

At least a half-dozen other small boats were nearby and immediately began throwing personal flotation devices to the vessel, which at that point was floating upside toward the inlet. Witness reported that the Natural Resources Police arrived on the scene quickly, followed by the Coast Guard. All occupants of the boat surfaced beyond the bridge and were rescued.

In the meantime, the partially submerged boat floated out the inlet, until it came up against the rocks of the north jetty, where it was retrieved by a TowBoatU.S. vessel out of West Ocean City.

Witnesses said the pontoon was carrying far too many people for its size, but whether they all boarded at the rental marina or were picked up at a different location after the boat had been rented is unknown at this time.

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