A lone survivor managed to swim to Bodega Rock after a wave capsized the crabbing boat he was in Saturday off the Northern California coast, killing all four of his companions, officials say.
Phillip Sanchez, 66, of Bodega Bay, said he managed to swim through 9-foot swells and cling to sharp rocks until a California Highway Patrol helicopter rescued him.
The four victims, three men and a woman, were pulled unresponsive from the water by the Coast Guard. The boat's owner, Jessie Langley, 79, was killed, as were Samuel Garcia, 86, and David Costa, 60, also died. The fourth victim, a woman, has not yet been identified.
Sanchez and the four others were returning to shore in a privately owned 32-foot boat named The Frog on the opening day of crabbing season when a wave knocked it over, sending all five into the rough, cold waters, he told rescuers. A mariner reported the overturned boat near Bodega Bay, about 70 miles north of San Francisco.
After Sanchez swam to shore, Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office helicopter pulled him to safety using a 100-foot line. Sanchez, wearing a T-shirt and jeans, suffered minor scrapes from the rocks and was very cold from being in the 59-degree water, Sgt. Cecile Focha said.
No one on board was wearing a life vest, which authorities said were available on the boat.
"They weren't using them,'' Focha said. "It's such a tragedy, such a loss.''
"This is not protected water," U.S. Coast Guard spokesman Aaron Bretz said. "The water temperature is very cold. This is where you need to have your life jacket on, and you need to understand what kind of weather you're getting into and be extremely careful."
The accident remains under investigation.
There was also a small craft advisory issued for the area.