Dec 3, 2012 No Comments ›› Pat Dollard
The Los Angeles Times: Two men have been detained after a veteran U.S. Coast Guard chief petty officer was killed Sunday after suspected smugglers in a panga rammed his vessel off the Ventura County coast.
The Coast Guard declined to identify them or say whether drugs were found aboard the boat. A second suspicious vessel was believed to have been traveling alongside the panga before the incident.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of our shipmate,” said Adm. Robert J. Papp, the Coast Guard commandant. “Our fallen shipmate stood the watch on the front lines protecting our nation, and we are all indebted to him for his service and sacrifice.”
Chief Petty Officer Terrell Horne III, 34, of Redondo Beach was second in command of the Halibut, an 87-foot patrol cutter based in Marina del Rey. Authorities said they could not recall a Coast Guard chief petty officer being killed in such a manner off the coast of California.
Early Sunday morning, the Halibut was dispatched to investigate a boat operating near Santa Cruz Island, the largest of California’s eight Channel Islands. The island is roughly 25 miles southwest of Oxnard.
The boat, first detected by a patrol plane, had fallen under suspicion because it was operating in the middle of the night without lights and was a “panga”-style vessel, an open-hulled boat that has become “the choice of smugglers operating off the coast of California,” said Coast Guard spokesman Adam Eggers.
The Coast Guard cutter contains a smaller boat — a rigid-hull inflatable used routinely for search-and-rescue operations and missions that require a nimble approach. When Horne and his team approached in the inflatable, the suspect boat gunned its engine, maneuvered directly toward the Coast Guard inflatable, rammed it and fled.
The impact knocked Horne and another Coast Guardsman into the water. Both were quickly plucked from the sea. Horne had suffered a traumatic head injury. While receiving medical care, he was raced to shore aboard the Halibut. Paramedics met the Halibut at the pier in Port Hueneme and declared Horne dead at 2:21 a.m.
The second crew member knocked into the water suffered minor injuries and was treated and released from a hospital later Sunday. He was not identified.
Using a helicopter and a 45-foot boat stationed in Los Angeles, the Coast Guard later found the panga and stopped it.
“We are actively working to ensure that all of the individuals involved in this illegal activity are brought to justice,” said Coast Guard Capt. James Jenkins.