A U.S. Coast Guardsman was killed on Sunday when his vessel was rammed while investigating another boat believed to be involved in drug smuggling in Southern California.
Chief Petty Officer Terrell Horne III was on a Coast Guard boat with a crewmate near Santa Cruz when the two approached a “panga-style vessel” — a fishing boat with an outboard motor — which accelerated and rammed the smaller vessel of the guardsmen, throwing them both overboard, according to Coast Guard Petty Officer Seth Johnson. Horne died of a head injury.
The two guardsmen were recovered by the crew of another Coast Guard boat, while a third Coast Guard boat gave chase, apprehending the fleeing vessel. Two men were arrested and an unidentified amount of marijuana was recovered from the boat by authorities.
The vessel was initially spotted by a Coast Guard patrol aircraft and had been travelling without any lights.
Horne was taken to an area hospital where he was pronounced dead. The second guardsman sustained minor injuries. His identity was not released.
“Our fallen shipmate stood the watch on the front lines protecting our nation, and we are all indebted to him for his service and sacrifice,” said Admiral Robert J. Papp, Coast Guard Commandant.
According to Petty Officer Johnson, the Coast Guard has seen a “surge” in drug smugglers in recent years using panga-style boats to bring illegal drugs into Southern California.
The Coast Guard was founded in 1789, and is the nation’s oldest continuous seagoing service, consisting of approximately 41,000 active duty personnel and 8,000 reservists.
Though the Coast Guard is often associated with protecting the shores off the United States, it has participated in the majority of U.S. conflicts, including World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Most recently, guardsman have participated in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
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