Boating accident: A 46-year-old man died and three others were rescued Sunday night after a boat went out of control and ran aground in high surf and gale force winds at Strand Beach off Dana Point.
• Despite gale warnings and dangerously high surf, four people took a 30-foot cabin cruiser out on the ocean off Dana Point.
• The boat went out of control and all four people — none of whom were wearing life jackets — were thrown overboard.
• Coast Guard and Fire Authority helicopters were able to rescued three of them, but the fourth — who was pulled up from the rocks to the chopper by a firefighter on a cable – was pronounced dead at the hospital.
Orange County Sheriff’s Harbor Patrol Sergeant David Ginther said four people, including 46-year-old Orange resident Mark Benet, went out in a 30-foot Bayliner Ciera in bad weather conditions.
A gale force wind warning had been in effect all afternoon, with winds howling at 25 to 30 mph, Harbor Patrol Deputy William Nelson told the Orange County Register. The surf was dangerously high, with waves as high as 9 to 10 feet.
It appears that the boat went out of control after some kelp got caught in the propellers.
“The reports indicate the props were tangled, and one of the passengers went overboard to clear them,” Ginther said. “They were able to partially clear the props, and regain control of the ship temporarily, only to lose control again.”
The person who went underwater to clear the propellers reportedly came back aboard the boat. At some point, however, the boat went out of control again and all four persons aboard were tossed into the ocean as the high swells washed the boat ashore.
Rescue divers found themselves in danger because of the high surf, so a helicopter rescue became necessary.
A U.S. Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter from Air Station Los Angeles rescued one man and two women who had been thrown overboard, but Benet was not with them.
Lifeguards from U.S. Ocean Safety and Laguna Beach found Benet at a rock outcropping adjacent to the beach, Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA) Captain Greg McKeown said.
An OCFA helicopter then lowered a firefighter on a cable to the outcropping. He pulled Benet up to the helicopter in a rescue basket (see top photo). Paramedics pulled the basket into the chopper, treated Benet and flew him to Mission Hospital Laguna Beach, where he was pronounced dead at 8:23 p.m.
None of the boaters was wearing a life jacket, the Coast Guard reported.
Coast Guard statistics show that more than 500 people die in boating accidents each year — 90 percent of them were not wearing life jackets.
The trial attorneys at Blackman Legal Group, a California-based law firm founded by renowned trial attorney Clifford Blackman, have successfully represented boating accidentvictims for 35 years. The nationwide toll-free number to call for a free consultation is 1-866-692-8126.