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Newport to Ensenada - Suspected shipping collision deaths - Update

by Sail-World.com on 29 Apr 2012
Newport to Ensenada Rich Roberts © http://www.UnderTheSunPhotos.com
Newport to Ensenada Race - Three sailors are dead and one is missing after the Redondo Beach based Hunter 376 yacht Aegean sailing in the category three 113 nautical mile race apparently collided with a large vessel in the main shipping channel near the Coroado Islands just south of the Mexican border.

The first indication of the incident was at 1:30 a.m. Saturday when Newport Ocean Sailing Association (NOSA) officials realised the Aegean's tracking unit had stopped reporting. At the time winds were very light with many of the boats in the fleet experiencing winds of only 1-2 knots. It was a starlight night with a half moon.

Yachts sailing in the race apparently reported seeing very small pieces of debris debris in the water (much of it less than 4 inches long around 10am and a Coast Guard search was launched that led to discovery of the boat's wreckage, including the rear transom with the boat's name on it.

A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter led Vessel Assist to one body and later retrieved two others.

The three bodies were brought to San Diego for examination by the medical examiner.

The search continues on Sunday morning local time for the fourth crew member.

Coast Guard Petty Officer Henry Dunphy said the aerial seach was being focused on the Coronado Island area about 10 miles off the Mexican coast and about 10 miles south of U.S. waters.

The Newport Beach Patch website reports that 'The 37-foot Redondo Beach-based Aegean was skippered by its owner, Theo Mavromatis, and had its regular crew, according to Ray Pollock of Marina Sailing, which rents out the boat for Mavromatis. Pollock said Mavromatis, an engineer, was an experienced sailor who had won his cruising division in the Newport to Ensenada race in the past.

'We don’t have any details of what happened to the boat,' Pollock said. 'The boat was very seaworthy and had all the instruments you need to avoid collisions.'

Pollock said the Aegean had a brand-new engine and experienced crew.

'I’d probably rule out operator error,' he said.



Tracking records of large vessels that transitted the area last night are currently being examined.

The San Diego County Medical Examiner's reports two of the dead were William Reed Johnson Jr., 57, of Torrance, Calif., and Joseph Lester Stewart, 64, of Bradenton, Fla. The office was withholding the name of the third sailor pending notification of relatives.

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