(Story from SDFISH)
Tragedy struck the local sportfishing fleet this weekend after the 75′ sportfishing boat Invicta struck one of the Coronado Islands early Saturday morning with 26 people onboard, breaking apart and sinking in the shallow water off the rocks.
Fortunately, all 26 people (21 passengers and 5 crew members) were able to get off the boat before it went down, and were rescued by the crew of the Sweet Marie, a commercial fishing vessel which responded to US Coast Guard distress signals. The Sweet Marie, owned and operated by John Rodriquez was only a mile and a half away when they got the call over the radio, and arrived on scene approximately 15 minutes after that. They found the passengers still on deck as the vessel took on water, wearing life jackets and waiting to board life rafts if help did not come before the Invicta went down.
During the rescue, the Sweet Marie risked both the well being of their 35′ boat, and their own crew as they skirted the shallow rocks to pull people off the Invicta. At some point, a tow rope from a life raft became entangled in the prop of the Sweet Marie, complicating the rescue.
The video below was captured by the US Coast Guard helicopter which first arrived on the scene as the Sweet Marie was getting the Invicta’s passengers onboard.
They were then transported from the Sweet Marie to the Sea Otter, a US Coast Guard Cutter which was dispatched to aid in the rescue. The Sweet Marie had to be towed into harbor by Sea Tow due to the rope entangled in their prop.
The incident reportedly happened at around 5 am after it arrived at the Coronado Islands on an overnight trip that left Friday evening. Passengers on board reported that the boat was driving in tight circles immediately before it crashed into the island. The behavior of the boat suggests it was probably on auto pilot at the time.
The Sea Otter returned to San Diego Bay with the passengers onboard at around 9 AM. CBS8.com captured footage of a crew member taking a breathalyzer test, and subsequently being handcuffed and detained by authorities afterwards. Rumors suggest this crew member was 2nd captain of the boat for this trip, and that he has been released. It’s unclear whether the crew member assigned wheel watch was asleep, intoxicated, or otherwise just not paying attention. An investigation is pending.
According to CBS8.com, one passenger reported a back injury, but declined treatment.
With a wind coming from the south over the weekend, wreckage has been washing up on Imperial Beach the last couple days.
The Invicta has an interesting history, having twice been bought via a U.S. Marshall’s auction, most recently in July of 2013 after the previous owner was caught transporting 12 tons of marijuana in December of 2012. Previous to that, it was a member of the sportfishing fleet as the “International Star” – featuring a distinctly long pulpit at the bow which has since been removed. And before that, the boat was originally named “Avanti” and owned by none other than Sonny and Cher at the time. It was built in 1974.
The Invicta was a member of the H&M Landing fleet, though independently owned and operated. The U.S. Coast Guard lists Brian M Inamura of El Segundo, CA as the current owner. Invicta Sportfishing is managed by Richard Allen of San Diego. The names of the captain(s) and crew for this trip are not known at this time.