Witness Says Cargo Ship Caused Yacht Crash
U.S. Sailing Association President Says Witness On Another Sailboat Saw Cargo Ship Hit Aegean
POSTED: 5:06 am PDT April 30, 2012
UPDATED: 11:46 pm PDT April 30, 2012
-- A witness on another sailboat claims she saw a cargo ship hit a yacht off the Coronado Islands, resulting in a crash that left three men
dead and one missing.
» Video: Local Group Searching For Missing Yachtsman
A spokesman for Newport
Ocean Sailing Association, which puts on the annual Newport
to Ensenada race
, said the wreckage of the 37-foot Aegean dropped off the race's boat-tracking system about 1:30 a.m. Saturday, and the debris field found when the sun rose later the same day suggested it was hit by a much larger vessel.
The president of the U.S. Sailing Association told 10News over the phone
that a woman on another sailboat witnessed the accident
, telling investigators the Aegean was hit by a cargo ship.
U.S. Sailing Association President Gary Jobson told 10News his group plans to appoint an independent panel to investigate the accident.
"At night, it's conceivable that the ship did not see the small boat, but there were a couple hundred boats on the water
, so for sure the ship had to know there was a lot of traffic in the area," Jobson said.
Sailors who knew skipper
Theo Mavromatis, 49, of Redondo Beach, said he was conscientious, safety
oriented and had his Hunter
376 outfitted with "all the bells and whistles," including radar
, which is a collision-avoidance tool.
10News has learned many yachtsmen now have an Automatic Identification System, known as AIS
Les George, an Oceanside yachtsman who sails
a 39-foot yacht called Obsession, demonstrated how the system picks up signals from ships that are sometimes miles away and transmits their position, telling the vessel name, course, speed and destination
"But if the boat isn't transmitting, you just cannot see them until they're on top of you," said George, who has sailed in the Newport to Ensenada race at least a dozen times.
Winds were light at the time, and if only one person were on deck
, he may have had trouble starting the boat's auxiliary engine
and getting out of the way in time.
"It's a tragic accident, I mean, you're out there and its dark, everybody's racing
with minimal lights," said George, who spoke with some friends who just returned from the race. "They’re saying it was a light wind
race, with not a lot of sea condition but there was a ton of boat traffic out there."
On Saturday afternoon, the bodies of Joseph Lester Stewart, 64, of Bradenton, Fla. and 57-year-old William Reed Johnson Jr. of Torrance were recovered, along with the body of Kevin Rudolph.
The San Diego
Examiner's Office said Monday that Rudolph died of blunt force injuries to his head
and neck; Johnson died of multiple blunt force injuries; and Stewart drowned.
The ship that struck the fiberglass sloop
has not been identified. Some of the first rescuers on scene were able to identify a debris field as that of the Aegean, because its transom, emblazoned with its name, was still afloat.
The yacht was one of 213 sailboats in the roughly 125-mile race, which started about noon Friday. Most boats finished Saturday.
The U.S. Coast Guard suspended its search Sunday afternoon.
"It's never easy to make the decision to suspend a search and rescue
case," said Capt. Sean Mahoney, the commander of the agency's San Diego sector. "The Coast Guard extends its sympathies to the families and friends of the Aegean crew. They will be in our thoughts and prayers."
A local private rescue
group has stepped in to help search for Mavromatis who is still missing at sea.
Niki Burgan is the founder of SoCal H2O Rescue Group.
Burgan’s parents and sister were killed when their small plane crashed near Carlsbad State Beach five years ago. Her father's body was never recovered.
"It's our goal to let the family
know that every possible last resource was utilized in bringing their family member
home, if that's at all a possibility," Burgan told 10News.
She added, "I feel like this is my way of giving back. Yesterday was the five-year anniversary of the crash and it was very emotional for me… I just wanted to isolate myself with my family, but I felt a nudge from my mom saying, 'Get out there and see what you can do.'"
Burgan’s group is comprised of certified lifeguards and specially trained search and rescue dogs
They left from the Chula Vista Marina at 1:30 a.m. Monday morning. They will meet up with Mexican authorities who are still searching the area.
Burgan and her dog Rummy came back empty handed on Monday but plan to go out again later this week.
"You just never know… the search is never done and until that one person comes back," she said. "I know what the families are going through… It's heart-wrenching."
The fatalities were first in the 65 years that the Newport to Ensenada race has been run, race organizers said.
Rich Roberts of the Newport Ocean Sailing Association, which puts on the race, said the collision
occurred just south of border near the Coronado Islands, a group of four islands about 8 miles off the Baja California
The course of the Aegean crossed shipping lanes used by commercial
and military ships headed to and from the ports
of San Diego and Ensenada, and maritime investigators will attempt to identify the ship involved. The captain
of ship hundreds of times as big as the Aegean might have been unaware of the collision.
The deaths marked the second yachting disaster this spring. On April 14 off San Francisco
, five lives were lost
when a yacht in a race around the Farallon Islands was disabled by a breaking wave and washed onto a rocky shore. That prompted the Coast Guard to suspend offshore
in Northern California
April 29, 2012: Crew In Fatal Yacht Accident Identified
my SPOT shows me 100 yards away from my actual place of existence. i wouldnt hold it to be a true source of accurate location--is but within 100 yards...
we all need to remember our mexican and kali coastlines are not friendly and hold many surprises. when we become complacent we lose. mother ocean is a tough love kind of mom-- smacks upside the head
if we slack off for any reason. please keep alert and watchful watches. would a more alert watchman have prevented this situation????? we will not know.