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Southland Surfers Caught in Blast

Orange County men were at Bali club when the bomb went off. One was hurt, one is missing.

October 14, 2002|Jennifer Mena | Times Staff Writer

Just to be safe after last year's terrorist attacks in New York and the Pentagon, Steven Brooks Webster and his friends canceled a long-planned surfing trip to Fiji. This year, they decided to go for it -- but picked the surf-rich Indonesian island of Bali.

Webster and one of his friends were inside a Bali nightclub Saturday night when a powerful car bomb exploded, a terrorist attack that killed more than 180 people and injured hundreds.

Webster is missing, and his friend is hospitalized with third-degree burns.

Webster's family received word of his disappearance from friends who flew with him on what the 41-year-old said was going to be his last surfing trip abroad. He was scheduled to return today.

"I just hope, somehow, he might have survived," said Stephen Quartararo, Webster's business partner at the Newport Beach-based engineering firm S&S Commercial Environmental Inc.

Webster's longtime friend Nicholas Yuschenkoff of Laguna Niguel on Sunday said he had spoken by telephone with the two friends traveling with Webster. Webster was inside the Sari Club, a bar popular among foreigners, just before the bomb blew, he was told.

One friend, John Frederick Parodi Jr., 42, of Huntington Beach, left the bar just before the bombing, according to Yuschenkoff and a Webster family member. Another, William Steven Cabler, 42, of Newport Beach, pulled himself out from the rubble to get medical attention, Yuschenkoff said.

Family and friends are e-mailing Webster's photo to authorities in Bali and to reporters.

"We want his picture out there so we can get his face and name in the mind of people who may know where he is," said a family member who did not want to be identified. "We're facing reality, though. Hopefully, he is at one of the hospitals or in a private home."

Webster's wife and her large extended family were too distraught to speak Sunday afternoon. Family and friends gathered at the couple's Huntington Beach home, not far from some of Webster's favorite local surfing spots.

"Maybe there will be a happy outcome," a neighbor said.

Webster works in Newport Beach and often goes surfing in the middle of the day. Quartararo said Webster -- also an avid fisherman and golfer -- realized he was getting older and might not have the opportunity to make such a trip again.

Years ago, he took several surfing trips to Mexico and Fiji with friends, but since getting married about five years ago, the trips became less of a priority, Quartararo said.

"He knew he was over 40 and getting older. He was a great athlete but he was slowing down," Quartararo said.

Webster was dedicated to his wife, Mona; 5-year-old son, Dylan; and teenage stepdaughter, Samantha, Quartararo said, but always managed to find time to surf.

Yuschenkoff, a 35-year-old commercial insurance salesman, was one of three surfing buddies Webster had for more than a decade. Yuschenkoff said he would have traveled with Webster and the other two but was on his honeymoon in Hawaii.

When Yuschenkoff returned and heard news reports about the bombing on TV, "a hair stood up on the back of my neck," he said. "I had a bad feeling. I have good intuition I guess."

Bali "is the best place on the planet, or it was," Yuschenkoff said. "Americans are [treated like] kings over there."

The Sari Club was a place where locals were often turned away. On a previous trip, Yuschenkoff said he was only able to get a Balinese man into the Sari after bribing a security guard.

"Whoever did this knew they would be attacking foreigners," he said. "If they were trying to send a message, they knew exactly what they were doing."

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