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Santa Paula Man Dies in Boat Accident

Tragedy: Victim, 53, was sailing with his two sons when the craft capsized near shore in heavy fog, tossing the three into the water.


OXNARD — A Santa Paula man who was sailing with his two sons died Sunday at a local hospital after his boat capsized in heavy surf in the midst of thick afternoon fog, authorities said.

Keith Clendening, 53, was found about 1:45 p.m. floating face down about 50 feet offshore from the Mandalay Power Plant, authorities said. A fisherman on the beach waded out and pulled Clendening to shore, and he was taken by helicopter to St. John's Regional Medical Center.

Clendening, who was not breathing and had no pulse when pulled from the water, died shortly after arriving at the hospital, authorities said. An autopsy is scheduled today.

"There was a real heavy fog that came in for about an hour. The boat was too close to the surf, and pretty soon I saw emergency boats and people looking for someone," said Patric Peake, the fisherman who pulled Clendening to shore. Peake is principal of Meiners Oaks Elementary School.

According to several law enforcement agencies, Clendening was boating with his sons, Keith Clendening II, 30, and Charles Clendening, 28, when they lost control of their Bayliner sometime after 1 p.m.

At the time, a thick fog was creeping over the Ventura County coastline. Authorities believe the Clendenings allowed their motorboat to get too close to shore, where it became caught waves.

"If you don't give yourself a big enough safety barrier, at least a half-mile to a mile, there is the danger of being caught inside a swell," said Ventura Harbor Patrol Officer John Higgins.

The 23-foot boat capsized in heavy surf, sending the three men into the water, authorities said. The sons were able to swim to shore, where they radioed for help after their father failed to surface.

Rescue crews included members of the Ventura County sheriff's and fire departments, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Ventura Harbor Patrol, and state lifeguards and parks officials. They searched by water, land and air before the victim was found about 20 minutes after the boat ran aground.

"It appears they got disoriented in the fog," said Senior Sheriff's Deputy Dennis Smith. "There was a heavy blanket that rolled in, and the surf pulled them to shore."

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