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Divers Search for Clues in Boat Sinking

July 13, 2006|Gregory W. Griggs | Times Staff Writer

Divers with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department searched Wednesday for clues to why a fishing boat sank quickly near Santa Cruz Island, killing two crew members.

Meanwhile, the Sheriff's Department and the U.S. Coast Guard continued their joint investigation.

The coroner's office, which is part of the Sheriff's Department, said the victims were Michael Caligiuri, 48, of Santa Barbara and Joseph Breck, 45, of Lompoc.

Sheriff's spokesman Erik Raney said Caligiuri died immediately while Breck attempted to swim away from the 36-foot vessel but was unable to reach shore.

Clifton Kent, 43, of Santa Barbara, the skipper of the steel fishing vessel the Five G's, made it to the island and spent Monday night in a cave-like outcropping on the northern end of Santa Cruz. Kent was rescued the next morning when a passing diving vessel, the Peace, out of Ventura Harbor, spotted debris, an oil slick and what looked like two bodies in the water. As Peace crew members surveyed the scene, they spotted Kent waving his arms.

In an interview early Wednesday, Raney said, Kent provided this account of the accident:

Just after 8 p.m. Monday, Kent, Breck and Caligiuri had started pulling nets through the water to catch sea bass. Without warning, the boat's stern began to drag. As waves washed over the stern, the engine compartment began to flood. Kent said the boat was completely submerged within a minute.

On Tuesday morning, the Peace notified the Coast Guard, which took Kent by helicopter to St. John's Regional Medical Center in Oxnard, where he was treated and released.

Sheriff's divers remained at the scene of the wreck Wednesday afternoon, Raney said. The Five G's had returned to the water's surface, but was capsized and listing heavily to one side.

The Sheriff's Department is investigating the deaths as accidental, Raney said. While the results from the autopsies and toxicology screenings will not be available for several weeks, the initial investigation has not revealed anything suspicious or unusual.

The Coast Guard is coordinating with Kent and a private salvage company to return the boat to Santa Barbara Harbor.

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