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Channel Islands capsized boat: Search continues for 4th body

March 12, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
The search resumed for a fourth body spotted floating near a capsized boat off the Channel Islands Monday morning. The U.S. Coast Guard departed from Oxnard at sunrise.

The 24-foot long boat was found capsized on the north side of Santa Cruz Island on Sunday. Coast guard officials say four bodies were spotted, but only three have been recovered.

Officials said it was supposed to be a leisurely day-long fishing trip about 20 miles off the coast. Family members of the victims contacted harbor patrol around 11 a.m. when the men failed to return from their trip. Searchers spotted one body on the boat and two others close by. A fourth body was spotted five miles away, but by the time rescuers arrived by boat they were only able to recover three bodies.

"We understand that there are four families out there that are missing a loved one, and only three of them have that loved one back in their possession," said U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Adam Eggers. "We want to make sure that within everything that we can do, that we do our best to find that fourth person to help bring some peace to the family."

According to the coast guard, the man who owned the vessel had made the trip to Santa Cruz Island multiple times in the past. Officials say they do not know what caused the boat to capsize, but weather could have been a factor.

"But the one thing everyone has to remember is, just because the boat is the same, just because the people operating the boat are the same, the weather and the sea state are not always," said Eggers. "That's a constantly changing challenge for anyone that either has fun or makes a living out on the water."

"It can turn all of a sudden. We've been over there and have had waves crashing up over my 37-footer and it gets pretty scary," said boater Donna Eyman.

Boaters who are familiar with the waters where the vessel was found said the area is known for good fishing and unpredictable winds

"There's a little gap between the two islands where it funnels the wind, so you get these really short period choppy swells that can be dangerous," said boater Scott Bennett.

Coast guard officials say it appears none of the men were wearing life jackets- a mistake experienced boaters say, that may have cost them their lives

"The water's going to be 55 degrees, or a little less this time of year," said Bennett. "So it's cold and you tread water for a little while, even a strong swimmer is going to have a hard time after an hour."

The investigation into the cause of the incident will also continue on Monday. Officials have not released the names of the victims.