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 35′ private fishing vessel Sweet Marie, which responded to US Coast Guard distress signals. The Sweet Marie was being skippered by the boat’s owner John Rodriguez, who had his wife, son and a friend onboard. They were heading to the 425, and only a mile and a half away when they got the mayday call. Rodriguez and his group arrived on scene approximately 15 minutes after that and found the passengers still on deck as the vessel took on water, wearing life jackets and waiting to board life rafts.
During the rescue, the Sweet Marie risked both the well being of their boat and persons as they skirted the shallow rocks to pull people off the Invicta. At some point, a rope, either from a life raft or wreckage became entangled in one of the props of the Sweet Marie, hampering their maneuverability and 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 was assisted by Vessel Assist to remove the rope from the propeller, and towed the life rafts back to the harbor under their own power. It was originally reported that the Sweet Marie had to be towed in, but that was not the case.
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.
Came across something no mariner ever wants to see this morning. The INVICTA was crashing into the rocks off of the nados. Motored around for a bit but didn't see anyone. Tons of gear and debris running down the island. Stayed to watch the forward half of the ship sink out then moved on. Put a damper on the morning and I couldn't stop thinking about everyone that was onboard. Checked the news a few minutes ago and was relieved to hear everyone got off ok. I hope that the owner and the crew can rebound from this quickly. For as beautiful as the ocean is, she is definitely always in charge. #invictasportfishing #hmlanding #sportfishing #shipwreck #sandiego
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.