Fatal sailboat accident blamed on overloading, equipment problems

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – A police investigation into a sailboat accident that killed a 73-year-old man and his middle-aged son last spring during a group outing on San Diego Bay concluded that the vessel capsized because it was overloaded and improperly maintained and equipped, authorities reported Wednesday.

The safe occupancy limit of the 26-foot 1988 MacGregor-model boat was exceeded by the 10 people aboard when it tipped over between Shelter and Harbor islands early on the evening of March 27, according to the San Diego Harbor Police Department.

All the passengers, some of them with disabilities, wound up in the water. Xingchao Chen and his 44-year-old son, Jun, both of Rancho Penasquitos, drowned before emergency personnel could rescue them.

Passing boaters helped pull the other victims, including three children, from the 55-degree water. Seven were injured, at least one seriously.

The pilot of the sailboat during the ill-fated outing was George Saidah, founder of Heart of Sailing, a Bloomington, Ind.-based nonprofit agency that offers boating experiences to special-needs children and adults as education and recreational therapy.

In a statement announcing their findings about the accident, Harbor Police officials did not immediately specify the type of vessel condition and equipment problems that allegedly contributed to the accident.

The county District Attorney's Office has reviewed the results of the investigation and has no plans to pursue criminal charges in the case “at this time,” according to the harbor police statement.

Saidah could not immediately be reached for comment. Following the fatal accident, Saidah told reporters a sudden, strong gust of wind had capsized the sailboat.

Categories: KUSI