LOS ANGELES – A U. S. Coast Guard member died early this morning from injuries sustained during law enforcement operations near Santa Cruz Island, Calif.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of our shipmate. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends, and his shipmates aboard Coast Guard Cutter Halibut,” said Coast Guard Commandant, Admiral Robert J. Papp. “We are focused on supporting them during this very difficult time. 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. Finally, I commend the responding Coast Guard and Customs and Border Protection units whose quick actions led to the successful interdiction and apprehension of those believed to be involved.”
The Coast Guard Cutter Halibut was investigating a panga-type vessel suspected of illicit activities. The vessel was initially detected by a Coast Guard maritime patrol aircraft.
The cutter deployed its small boat which made an approach on the suspect vessel, which was running darkened ship, meaning it was operating without any navigational running lights or other illumination. When the Coast Guard small boat approached with its blue law enforcement light energized, the suspect vessel, identified to be a profile Mexican style panga, maneuvered at a high rate of speed directly towards the Coast Guard small boat and struck it before fleeing the scene.
Two Coast Guard members were thrown from the boat into the water, and both members were immediately recovered by the Coast Guard small boat. Upon recovery it appeared one member sustained a traumatic head injury and the other had minor injuries.
The cutter crew quickly recovered the small boat and boarding team, and immediately administered first aid to the injured crewmembers. Halibut made its way to Port Hueneme, Calif., where emergency medical service units met the cutter at the pier and pronounced one injured crew member deceased.
Additional Coast Guard assets were able to stop the fleeing panga, and detained two suspects.
The incident remains under investigation. The names of the crew members involved are not being released pending next of kin notification.