Joyce Beck wasn’t surprised when she received a phone call in late February morning telling her that her husband, Danny, was seriously injured in a boating accident.
The phone call was something the Essex woman had prepared herself for the past 31 years, the last 22 of which they have been married. Beck said that fear is just part of being married to a waterman, whose profession requires battling the elements of the Chesapeake Bay to make a living.
“When those guys go out there on the water, you know anything can happen,” Beck said. “In life, there’s nothing that’s truly safe, and that’s especially true on the water.”
Danny Beck, 62, the president of the Baltimore County Waterman’s Association, was yellow perch fishing with two other men on Feb. 20 when their vessel suffered significant damage. It hit a day marker in the dark while on the Gunpowder River near . Beck suffered broken vertebrae, a broken hip and pelvis and internal injuries. One of his crew members, Richard Quapy, died and another, James Stiles, is paralyzed.
Joyce Beck called it a “tragic accident.” The water was calm the day of accident, unlike many of the days leading up to it, when winds reached gusts of more than 50 mph. Their accident compares to crashing a car into a tree at 25 mph, she said.
“He only remembers two bumps,” Beck said. “The first knocked his glasses off and the second flipped him over the console and knocked him unconscious. When he came to, the boat was going in circles.”
At that point, another waterman, Charles "Sonny" Norris, saw the boat and towed it back to Middle River. Norris is a longtime friend of Beck and a former president of the Baltimore County Watermen’s Association.
APG spokesman George Mercer that Baltimore County police, the Baltimore County Fire Department and the state Department of Natural Resources responded to the accident.
Joyce Beck said her husband has been deeply depressed since the accident. He has been back and forth between the hospital and a rehabilitation center. He has also recently dealt with fluid filling up in his lungs.
“He is likely going to walk with a limp and be in pain for a very long time,” Beck said. “But the pain he is dealing with knowing what happened to the other two men on the boat with him hurts a lot more.”
Danny Beck’s accident has been talked about extensively throughout the state’s watermen community.
Maryland Watermen’s Association President Larry Simns said Beck is a constant advocate for watermen. This includes in Annapolis, where Beck has assisted such groups as the Maryland Fisheries Task Force, which is charged with advising the state on fisheries management.
“Danny always wants to make the lives of watermen better,” Simns said. “He’s always volunteering to help out on a committee or is willing to lobby lawmakers regarding watermen legislation. We’re all devastated by this accident. Danny always took the time to help watermen who needed assistance.”
Simms also said that Beck has used past transgressions in his life as an example to others on how watermen should handle themselves in the water.
In 2006, Beck pleaded guilty in federal court of poaching yellow perch within Aberdeen Proving Ground waters and was sentenced to a year of probation. This came six years after he pleaded guilty in federal court of catching around $70,000 worth of striped bass off the proving ground while utilizing his wife and daughter’s fishing license and then falsifying his records.
“Danny got into trouble a few years back …” wrote Simns in the March edition of the Waterman’s Gazette, a monthly publication from the Maryland Watermen’s Association. “He paid his penalty and has been a strong law-abiding waterman ever since. In fact, he preaches to watermen not to break the law, either intentionally or by accident."
Watermen’s Gazette editor Mick Blackistone said Beck is one of the most knowledgeable people he knows when it comes to watermen-related issues.
“Danny is the person you call if you are writing about fishing regulations or history in Maryland,” Blackistone said. “His expertise on these issues is invaluable. We’re all in shock and disbelief over this accident. We are just concerned for Danny and his family.”