The lifeless bodies of three men were found Saturday off the shore of northern Mexico, and another sailor remained missing, after their sailboat broke apart in an apparent collision with a large vessel in an international shipping lane during the Newport to Ensenada Yacht Race, authorities reported.
The identities of the three men, one of whom was a resident of Torrance, have not been released until relatives can be notified. Their bodies were recovered by a civilian crew at 9:56 Saturday morning in a debris field in the Pacific Ocean, the San Diego County Coroner reported this morning.
The deadly accident, the first in the 65-year history of the yacht race, occurred Saturday near the Coronado Islands and involved crew members from the 37-foot Aegean, which was based in Redondo Beach's King Harbor. Two unidentified victims were found by a civilian crew Saturday afternoon, and another was recovered by a Coast Guard helicopter crew.
"An investigation (is) continuing, but it appeared the damage was not inflicted by an explosion but by a collision with a ship much larger than the 37-foot vessel," Rich Roberts, the race's press officer, wrote in a news release. According to MSNBC, the course crosses "heavy shipping lanes off San Diego."
Roberts said the Aegean "vanished" from the online race tracking system at about 1:30 a.m. Saturday. Theo Mavromatis is the owner and skipper of the Aegean, a Hunter 376 representing the Little Ships Fleet club, but it was not known if he was one of the victims, the NOSA reported.
Overnight the U.S. Coast Guard, Mexican Navy and civilian search and rescue crews were searching for another missing crew member with the help of a Jayhawk helicopter, a 45-foot Response Boat, and a C-130 Hercules aircraft as well as the Coast Guard Cutter Sea Otter, a Mexican Navy vessel and civilian vessels.
According to the U.S. Coast Guard, vessels in the area of the Coronado Islands saw debris at about 10 a.m. The Coast Guard launched an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter, and a 33-foot response boat to search the area. The rear transom with the boat's name on it was found floating in the wreckage several miles off the California coast near the Mexican border, race officials said.
The bodies of the victims were taken to Coast Guard Sector San Diego and turned over to the San Diego County Coroner. ABC7 reported Mavromatis -- who is president and chief executive of Aegean Consulting, Inc. which specializes in the telecommunications and aerospace industries, was aboard the boat for the race. The names of the victims are being withheld pending notification of their next of kin, and race officials did not have a crew list immediately available.
A statement issued on the NOSA's web site states, "NOSA is working with the U.S. Coast Guard, Vessel Assist and the Mexican Navy to find survivors and to determine details of the accident. NOSA and all of our racers send our condolences to the families of the sailors of the Aegean."
The cause of the fatal incident remains under investigation. The NOSA says weather conditions were lighter than normal at the time and place of the deadly incident, with boats reporting winds of only 1 or 2 knots.
The race's 213 participating boats set sail early Friday from the Balboa Pier. Since 1983, 675 boats have competed in the famed race.