Panga boat driver kills Coast Guard officer
December 3, 2012
A panga boat suspected to be used for smuggling drugs rammed into a Coast Guard boat early Sunday morning, killing an officer off the coast of Santa Barbara County. [Noozhawk]
The Coast Guard spotted the panga boat around 1 a.m. near Santa Cruz Island in the Santa Barbara Channel and dispatched the Cutter Halibut to investigate it. A small boat then launched from the Cutter and approached the panga, Coast Guard spokesman Adam Eggers told Noozhawk.
“When the Coast Guard small boat approached with its blue law enforcement light energized, the suspect vessel, identified a profile Mexican-style panga, maneuvered at a high rate of speed directly toward the Coast Guard small boat and struck it before fleeing the scene,” Eggers said.
The collision threw two crew members into the water, causing a traumatic head injury to one. The small Coast Guard boat recovered both of the crew members, but at about 2:20 a.m. doctors declared Chief Petty Officer Terrel Horne III, 34, dead. The other crewman sustained minor injuries.
Other guardsmen stopped the fleeing panga and detained two suspects.
ABC News reported that that the Coast Guard detained two additional suspects from a pleasure craft it intercepted along with the panga. The Santa Barbara Sheriff’s SWAT Team and the U.S. Border Patrol are searching for yet another two suspects, whom they believe the suspected smugglers dropped off on Santa Cruz Island.
The incident remains under investigation, and law enforcement has not released the names of the suspects. The cause of Horne’s death is expected to be released Monday.
Several panga boats suspected of smuggling drugs from Mexico have reached the shores of San Luis Obispo County in recent months. One panga boat beached near San Simeon last week, leading to multiple arrests.