A smuggler's panga running without lights rammed a small Coast Guard boat in the predawn darkness in the Channel Islands west of Malibu Sunday, killing one Coast Guard member and injuring a second.
The injured Coast Guard members were rushed to Port Hueneme, but one was declared dead at the wharf. The other had minor injuries.
The Ventura County Medical Examiner's Office identified the man as Terrell Horne III, 34, of Redondo Beach.
"Our hearts go out to the family and the loved ones of Chief Petty Officer Horne," Coast Guard Capt. James Jenkins said at a news conference at the Coast Guard Los Angeles Station in San Pedro. "All the members of team coast guard grieve along with them and are very sorry for their loss."
Both Coast Guard members were assigned to the USCG Cutter Halibut, based at Marina del Rey. Customs and Border Patrol and Coast Guard ships were able to chase the panga after the apparent ramming and arrest two people, USCG Petty Officer Seth Johnson said. Marijuana was also found on the boat.
Johnson said the Halibut was tracking a smuggling boat off Santa Cruz Island, one of a cluster of three Channel Islands sitting off the Ventura County coast, about 30 miles west of Malibu.
A Coast Guard patrol plane had spotted the panga and another boat as it headed towards the Channel Islands without lights at about 1 a.m. The Halibut was sent to Santa Cruz Island, and had arrested two people from one boat.
The Halibut lowered a small chase boat into the water, and the small federal craft activated its blue lights and siren. At that point, the panga's captain changed direction and drove into the small federal boat, apparently deliberately, Johnson said.
Horne and another Coast Guard member were thrown into the water, and were immediately picked up by another federal boat. Traumatic head injuries were spotted on one person, CPR was administered, and Horne was then rushed about 15-20 miles to the nearest dock, at Port Hueneme.
U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet NapolitanoNapolitano said she was "deeply saddened'' to learn of Horne's death.
She said Horne and his fellow crew members "were engaged in an at-sea interdiction when they came under threat by a small vessel that rammed their small boat.''
"This tragedy reminds us of the dangers our men and women in uniform face every day, and the great risks they willingly take, as they protect our nation,'' she said.
'An outstanding Coast Guard member'
This was not Horne's first encounter with a panga. In January of this year, the Halibut and a second Coast Guard vessel intercepted two smuggling boats carrying almost 2,000 pounds of marijuana northwest of Catalina Island.
Neither boat had their navigation lights on, "creating a level of suspicion as to why two boats would be operating in close proximity to one another, near a sparsely populated island around midnight, with no lights on," according to an article posted on the Coast Guard Compass blog.
“We got right up on them,” Horne told the Coast Guard Compass at the time. “We started talking from the ship, trying to find out what their story was and it wasn’t really adding up. That’s when we launched the small boat and the boarding team.”
Eight people were detained.
Before coming to California, Horne served at Emerald Isle, S.C., Coast Guard Station from June 2009 to June 2011, where he was recognized with the Coast Guard Commendation Medal as a chief boatswain's mate, town Mayor Art Schools wrote in his July 2011 Island Review column.
According to Schools, Horne was involved in 63 search-and-rescue missions resulting in 38 saved lives, the "most notable" of which was a capsized boat in July 2010:
In response to the distress call, (Horne) launched the unit’s 27-foot utility boat. When the utility boat got to the bar, sea conditions had deteriorated to six-foot breaking seas across the bar. He had to balance the safety of the crew and the lives of the people in the water. Under these very serious conditions, he coached a junior coxswain through the treacherous sea conditions to the capsized boat. All five people from the capsized boat were rescued and safely returned to shore.
Horne later moved to Redondo Beach, where he lived with his wife, Rachel. Neighbors told multiple television outlets Sunday that Rachel Horne is pregnant with the couple's second child.
"Chief Petty Officer Horne was an outstanding Coast Guard member," Jenkins said. "He gave his life in service, enforcing the laws of this nation."