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U.S. Coast Guardsman killed off California coast [Google+ hangout]

December 3, 2012 | 12:57 pm

Times reporter Scott Gold will join city editor Shelby Grad at 2 p.m. in a Google+ hangout to discuss the U.S. Coast Guardsman killed Sunday morning after suspected smugglers rammed his patrol boat near Santa Cruz Island.

From Gold's Monday story:

Chief Petty Officer Terrell Horne III, 34, of Redondo Beach was second in command of the Halibut, an 87-foot patrol cutter based in Marina del Rey. Authorities said they could not recall a Coast Guard chief petty officer being killed in such a manner off the coast of California.

Early Sunday morning, the Halibut was dispatched to investigate a boat operating near Santa Cruz Island, the largest of California's eight Channel Islands. The island is roughly 25 miles southwest of Oxnard.

The boat, first detected by a patrol plane, had fallen under suspicion because it was operating in the middle of the night without lights and was a "panga"-style vessel, an open-hulled boat that has become "the choice of smugglers operating off the coast of California," said Coast Guard spokesman Adam Eggers.

The Coast Guard cutter contains a smaller boat — a rigid-hull inflatable used routinely for search-and-rescue operations and missions that require a nimble approach. When Horne and his team approached in the inflatable, the suspect boat gunned its engine, maneuvered directly toward the Coast Guard inflatable, rammed it and fled.

The impact knocked Horne and another Coast Guardsman into the water. Both were quickly plucked from the sea. Horne had suffered a traumatic head injury. While receiving medical care, he was raced to shore aboard the Halibut. Paramedics met the Halibut at the pier in Port Hueneme and declared Horne dead at 2:21 a.m.

"We are deeply saddened by the loss of our shipmate," said Adm. Robert J. Papp, the Coast Guard commandant. "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."

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