YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

2 Die in Sinking of Fishing Vessel

The crew members' bodies are found near Santa Cruz Island. Their skipper is rescued.

July 12, 2006|Gary Polakovic | Times Staff Writer

Two commercial fishermen died and another was rescued after their boat sank near Santa Cruz Island off the Santa Barbara coast early Tuesday, the Coast Guard reported.

Clifton Kent, a 45-year-old Santa Barbara resident and skipper of the 5G's, managed to swim more than a mile through chilly waters and was rescued near the island's Painted Caves area.

But two crew members were found dead amid debris scattered over the water's surface when a scuba-diving boat, the Peace from Ventura County, spotted an oil slick at 8:45 a.m. The crew of the Peace notified the Coast Guard, and then dispatched a dinghy to rescue Kent, who was airlifted to a local hospital where he was treated and released.

The identities of the victims were not released. The cause of the accident remains under investigation.

Mike McCorkle, 67, has fished off the Southern California coast for 50 years and moors his boats next to the 5G's in Santa Barbara Harbor. He said the 36-foot Canadian-built steel fishing boat carries large nets, which are used at night. He said Kent was probably saved by luck and his powerful swimming ability.

"He can swim all day when he's diving for urchins, so he's a very strong swimmer," McCorkle said. "Fishing is a dangerous occupation, but something weird happened out there because he was an experienced fisherman."

Kent could not be reached for comment.

About 100 commercial fishing boats operate out of Santa Barbara Harbor, and this time of year many of them target halibut and white sea bass for restaurants in the Los Angeles area. Many boats use nets and operate at night at least a mile from the northern islands that constitute Channel Islands National Park.

The boat sank about two miles from shore, said John Bridley, waterfront director for the Santa Barbara Harbor.

The Coast Guard said the stricken vessel issued no radio transmissions for help. Fishermen reported no unusual conditions: 2- to 4-foot swells, light winds and visibility of about three-quarters of a mile in the Santa Barbara Channel on Tuesday morning.

"Something had to have happened pretty quickly in order for that boat to go down and not get out a call, but that's conjecture," Bridley said.

Petty Officer Prentice Danner of the Coast Guard said boating mishaps involving anglers are rare off Southern California. There were no fatalities last year and three fishermen died in 2004.

"It's unusual for a large boat like this, engaged in fishing, to sink and have people die," Danner said.

The Coast Guard and the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department are conducting an investigation.

Los Angeles Times Articles