Tue, Apr 17, 2012 - Page 20 News List

Five presumed dead in yachting accident near San Francisco

Reuters, SAN FRANCISCO

Rescuers halted a search on Sunday for four sailors swept overboard after powerful waves battered their boat during a yacht race, tossing it onto rocks around islands off San Francisco, officials said.

The body of one sailor was recovered and the suspension of rescue efforts brought the presumed death toll from Saturday’s accident to five.

“An air and sea search was suspended indefinitely around sundown and we will not go back tomorrow,” US Coast Guard spokesman Caleb Critchfield said. “We kept searching 12 hours past what we consider the survivability window. We extend our deepest sympathy and our hearts go out to the family and friends of the victims.”

The vessel, Low Speed Chase, an 11.5m racing and cruising sailboat with a crew of eight, was one of 49 yachts competing on Saturday in a race around South Farallon Island, part of a rugged, sparsely populated chain offshore from San Francisco.

Officials said trouble began as the vessel rounded South Farallon Island on Saturday afternoon. A large wave initially swept four crew members into the ocean and when those remaining aboard tried to turn the craft around, another wave pushed the boat onto rocks, where it foundered. Local media said the second wave tossed three more people into the water.

Air units from the coast guard and California Air National Guard lifted off after receiving an emergency transmission from a satellite beacon on the Low Speed Chase, as well as a mayday radio call from a nearby yacht, officials said.

Shortly after Saturday’s accident, helicopter crews quickly used litter baskets and motorized winches to rescue three sailors, said Levi Read, a US Coast Guard spokesman.

The rescuers also recovered the body of Marc Kasanin, 46, of Belvedere, California, who was identified late on Sunday.

Coast guard and air national guard aircraft and ships blanketed a search area measuring 24km by 48km to no avail.

The missing Californian sailors were identified as Alexis Busch of Larkspur; Alan Cahill of Tiburon; Jordan Fromm, 25, of Kentville; and an additional crew member, whose identity was being withheld because his family had yet to be notified.

The Farallones Full Crews Race was first held in 1907 and the accident was a major blow to the San Francisco Yacht Club. The club, founded in 1869, held a private vigil on Sunday.

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