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Fatal Crash in Yacht Race May Have Been Caused By Freighter, Coast Guard Investigates

By MarEx 2012-04-30 14:31:54

After a 37-foot boat disappeared during the Newport-to-Ensenada yacht race, the Coast Guard is now investigating whether or not the boat was struck by a freighter or tanker. Four sailors were lost in the incident.

The Coast Guard cannot yet confirm the cause of the noticeable destruction of the vessel, the Aegean. However, racing officials do believe that it was hit by a much larger vessel. The Coast Guard is tracking down any vessel that may have been in the area at the time.

The Los Angeles Times reports that three bodies were recovered Saturday from a scattered debris field near the Coronado Islands, about 15 miles south of San Diego. None was wearing a life jacket. After searching a 600-square-mile area Sunday with ships and aircraft, the Coast Guard has suspended its search for the fourth crew member.

The 125-mile race organizers believed the boat was hit and destroyed by a much larger ship, like a freighter or tanker, as they were passing in the dark early Saturday. The boat officially vanished from the online tracking system around 1:30 a.m. Saturday. Two sailors on other boats recalled seeing a large ship in the area.

The deaths were the first in the history of the race, which this year had 213 entries and has a history of attracting such world-class skippers.

Statistics kept by the Coast Guard indicate that even though the waters off the West Coast are heavily used by recreational boaters, merchant ships and U.S. Navy vessels, accidents are exceptionally rare. In 2010, six accidents involving recreational boaters were reported to the Coast Guard three miles or more into the Pacific Ocean — with one fatality.