Patrick Lewis Sukeforth was a passenger on a 1987, 23' Chris Craft recreational power boat named "The Hardwood", which was traveling eastbound in the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal in Delaware City, Delaware, returning to their port of origin across the Delaware River in Pennsville, New Jersey. They traveled along the canal from the Chesapeake Inn, Chesapeake City, MD through Maryland and then Delaware waters.
Around midnight, somewhere in the vicinity of exiting the canal or actually within the Delaware River, the boat struck underwater debris damaging and disabling the outdrive of the recreational boat. An anchor was placed and friends in New Jersey were called via cell phone to come provide a tow to shore. The anchor failed to hold bottom due to wakes from passing ships(s). The boat drifted generally east bound toward the center of the river which is the shipping lanes of Delaware River frequented by tankers.
Between 3:00 AM and 4:12 AM, a large tanker ship was observed bearing directly down upon the boat; the tanker was not responding to the occupants flashing light. A collision seemed eminent. Fearing being run down by the tanker, the boat owner stated Patrick grabbed a boat bumper and jumped over the side of the boat into the river; the boat owner also jumped into the river to get out of the path of the oncoming tanker.
Approximately 45 minutes later, the boat owner (still in the water) was rescued by friends from New Jersey. Boat owner believed Patrick was swimming toward the general direction of Ft. Mott, which is the New Jersey side of the Delaware River. The water was still cold in May and currents in the Delaware River quite strong. The average depth of water in the shipping channel is 45â€™. Fort Mott is a 1896 fortification erected in anticipation of the Spanish-American War and typically a prominent landmark for boaters on the river. (Information retrieved from NamUs.gov)