Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Terrell Horne III of Redondo Beach and three others were on an inflatable boat in pursuit of suspected drug smugglers in a panga. Investigators say that the panga was running dark with no lights on when it was spotted near Santa Cruz Island around 2 a.m. Sunday.
The Coast Guard cutter Halibut deployed its small boat, and the crew chased after the smugglers with its law enforcement lights on. Authorities say the suspects suddenly turned, and at a high rate of speed, hit the Coast Guard inflatable head-on, throwing two Coast Guard members into the water.
Horne, 34, sustained a traumatic head injury and was pronounced dead at the Port of Hueneme. The other Coast Guard member suffered minor injuries.
"I want to emphasize that our hearts go out to the family and the loved ones of Chief Petty Officer Horne," said Coast Guard Capt. James Jenkins.
The two suspects have been arrested. Sources say they are Mexican nationals. The Department of Justice is investigating the deadly incident.
In Redondo Beach, family and friends have been filling his home and comforting his wife. Neighbors say that she is pregnant with their second child.
Authorities say drugs were recovered on the panga, and according to sources, it was a large amount of marijuana.