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Update: Search Suspended for Missing Sailor, Officials ID Aegean Crewmen

A Torrance man and a sailor from Florida were among the victims of the deadly Newport to Ensenada Yacht crash, according to the San Diego County Coroner.

Editor's note: This story was originally published on Sunday, April 29 at 12 a.m.

U.S. Coast Guard officials have suspended the search for a missing sailor who was part of a four man crew aboard a yacht sailing in the Newport to Ensenada Yacht Race. Authorities believe the ill-fated Aegean may have collided with a larger vessel off the shore of northern Mexico in an international shipping lane.

Search crews combed more than 600 square miles over the weekend looking for the missing sailor before halting their efforts about 4:15 p.m. Sunday, the Coast Guard reported. William Reed Johnson Jr., 57, of Torrance, and Joseph Lester Stewart, 64, of Bradenton, Fla. perished in the deadly crash, the San Diego County Coroner reported. Friends told Patch that the third crewman was Kevin Rudolph, a Los Angeles area resident. The bodies were recovered by civilian and helicopter crews at 9:56 a.m. Saturday in a debris field in the Pacific Ocean, officials said.

“It’s never easy to make the decision to suspend a search and rescue case,” said Capt. Sean Mahoney, Commander Sector San Diego. “The Coast Guard extends its sympathies to the families and friends of the Aegean crew. They will be in our thoughts and prayers.”

The 37-foot Redondo Beach-based Aegean was skippered by its owner, Theo Mavromatis, and had its regular crew, according to Ray Pollock of Marina Sailing, which rents out the boat for Mavromatis. This was the seventh time Mavromatis had entered the race, according to results from the race’s official website. He won the race in 2011 and 2009.

Mike Patton, who was supposed to have sailed on the Aegean in the Lexus Newport Beach to Ensenada Yacht Race, speculated late Sunday that Mavromatis probably went down with the sailboat, which apparently collided with a larger vessel.

"Everyone's been saying I'm the luckiest guy in the world," Patton said. "I don't feel that way."

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The deadly accident, the first in the 65-year history of the yacht race, occurred Saturday near the Coronado Islands.

“We don’t have any details of what happened to the boat,” Pollock said. “The boat was very seaworthy and had all the instruments you need to avoid collisions.”

Pollock said the Aegean had a brand-new engine and experienced crew.

“I’d probably rule out operator error,” he said.

The Aegean "vanished" from the online race tracking system at about 1:30 a.m. Saturday, according to the Newport Ocean Sailing Association.

"An investigation (is) continuing, but it appeared the damage was not inflicted by an explosion but by a collision with a ship much larger than the 37-foot vessel," Rich Roberts, the race's press officer, wrote in a news release.

The U.S. Coast Guard says vessels in the area of the Coronado Islands saw debris at about 10 a.m. Saturday. The Coast Guard launched an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter, and a 33-foot response boat to search the area. The rear transom with the boat's name on it was found floating in the wreckage several miles off the California coast near the Mexican border, race officials said.

A statement issued on the NOSA's web site states, "NOSA is working with the U.S. Coast Guard, Vessel Assist and the Mexican Navy to find survivors and to determine details of the accident. NOSA and all of our racers send our condolences to the families of the sailors of the Aegean."

The cause of the fatal incident remains under investigation. The NOSA says weather conditions were lighter than normal at the time and place of the deadly incident, with boats reporting winds of only 1 or 2 knots.

The race's 213 participating boats set sail early Friday from the Balboa Pier. Since 1983, 675 boats have competed in the famed race.

Mavromatis is president and chief executive of Aegean Consulting, Inc. which specializes in the telecommunications and aerospace industries.

Nisha Gutierrez-Jaime (Editor) April 29, 2012 at 06:29 PM
Sherrylynn, your family is in my thoughts & prayers. I am so very sorry to hear about this tragic accident. I will continue to pray for everyone involved.
Sarah Thomas April 29, 2012 at 08:39 PM
I am a good friend of your sister's and just heard that your brother was involved in the accident. I'm so sorry. I am still hoping they find him in time. I will keep you in my thoughts.
sherrylynn April 29, 2012 at 08:44 PM
Sarah, Kevin's body is one of them they found, unfortunately he has passed away. What sister do you know?
Adrienne Kenlan April 29, 2012 at 08:51 PM
As a former racer in this race, I can only think, There, but for the grace of God, go any of us. My heartfelt wishes for peace for all of the families. A. Kenlan SV Stimulator
Sarah Thomas April 29, 2012 at 11:46 PM
I know the sister of the captain, Theo Mavromatis. She just reported that the Coast Guard has called off the search for him. :(
Sarah Thomas April 29, 2012 at 11:48 PM
Sherry-My thoughts are with you and the families of the other crew members. May they rest in peace.
Carolyn Queen April 30, 2012 at 02:55 AM
My husband and I are members of Little Ships Fleet Yacht Club. My husband is a past commodore and I had served as the clubs secretary. We send our sincere and deep condolences to you Sherrylynn and to all the families of these good men lost in this tragic accident. We are saddened by this news and offer our prayers and support to you in any way possible. May God bring you strength and comfort through the days ahead.
ccollins April 30, 2012 at 04:43 AM
This is very sad. My condolances to the families. I'm on the east coast. I sail and I often pass through shipping channels. I wonder if these sailors knew the ship was on their heels? The sailboat could have moved by engine. I do it all the time. Was there a problem with the engine on the sailboat or was going under engine power against the sail racing rules?
ccollins April 30, 2012 at 04:48 AM
Would it be a good idea for the Coast Guard to send out radio warnings of sail races happening in offshore shipping channels to large ships and ferries, especially at night? Seems like large cargo ships aren't paying attention.
Judy April 30, 2012 at 05:17 AM
Sherrylynn,so sorry to hear about Kevin...Aunt Alta or Aunt Sarah called Mom this morning and told her..She loved Kevin and he loved his aunt Jean too.She was telling me about Kevin telling her he wished she was his grandma too...He was a very talented young man,kind and generous and he will be missed...thinking of you and your families.. Your southern IL extended families Judy and Aunt Jean Price
Mike Proctor April 30, 2012 at 05:47 AM
Being a person who spends a lot of time on the water, I have my opinions of what may have happened, but this is not the place for them. I will express my sincere condolences to the family. Very sad, and my the four crewmen RIP.
Jillian Supermom April 30, 2012 at 07:25 AM
I just found out and I am almost speechless. My heart hurts for you and all of the family/friends. It's such a great loss for us but a great gain for Heaven... Please know he's with us and loves you very much...
sherrylynn April 30, 2012 at 12:27 PM
I agree with you ccollinsm, It seems like something could have been done to avoid this. I am just sick.
Debbie Smith April 30, 2012 at 12:42 PM
My elderly mom and I are dear friends with the mother of one of the crew members. Devastating news for her, his two girls, and all families suffering such great loss.
jeff s April 30, 2012 at 05:15 PM
so what ship did it hit??!! - C'MON this is BS - you don't collide with a 40 foot boat and not know anything, this is absurd, coverup I say, someone is not talking... US NAVY submarine took it out likely, we will never know the truth..
Mike Proctor April 30, 2012 at 06:08 PM
Jeff S. Have you ever been up and close to some of the tankers and freighters that come into LA and LB harbor? These ships are HUGE, and move at a good clip. They are loud as heck....they will rarely, if ever alter course, and if they hit a 35 foot sail boat, its like you hitting a shoe box with your truck. You don't even notice. Remember, most of these ships, the bridge of the ship is at the stern, which is 200 to 600 feet back from the bow of the boat, and 10 stories above the water. I personally have had one close call, and it is amazing how fast these ships can come up on you...... This is why it so important to have radar, plus a look out at all times. On a calm quite night, it can be very relaxing, and it is very easy to fall a sleep, and IMO this is most likely what happened. JMO, but I'm speaking from experience of long off- shore trips, and having to sit there for many hours piloting a boat, fighting the head nods. I feel for the families of these men, because the real facts may never be known. All I know is there are four families that are devastated right now, and my heart goes out to them.
George Feher April 30, 2012 at 10:25 PM
I was sailing a Beneteau 38 off Point Loma three years ago. A Navy submarine surfaced right off our bow and I barely avoided a collision. Your theory makes plenty of sense to me.
Cornelia Stevens May 01, 2012 at 02:03 AM
My thoughts and prayers are with the crew and their families. A devastating situation that should not have happened. At least they passed doing something they loved.
Kevin Spainhour May 01, 2012 at 01:49 PM
Aegean was in our class for the race. They passed us within a few hours of the start. Although I didn't know them personally, like all racing skippers, I remember all boats that pass me. They were sailing well and very fast. It is important for everyone to find out what happened in order to make everyone safer on the course. This is twice in the past month that many lives were lost in a sport that I considered safer than racing motorcycles off road in Mexico. We need to demand from our leadership in our government to release the name of the vessel that hit them. They have to know it. Every boat that crosses the US border is tracked by their transponders. This shouldn't be that difficult. Prayers to the family and friends of the crew. 8 bells.
sherrylynn May 01, 2012 at 02:14 PM
Thank you Kevin, that was hard to type your name...we do want to know that information too. It won't bring them back but at least we will know what happened and maybe those ships would have some safer precautions procedures. I know my brother and the crew where very safe and precautious people...It wasn't a reckless mistake... something have had to go wrong-very wrong. I wish that there where some other boats that could have seen what happened...I know I read that some heard the frieght ship passing so that must have been the one... thank you for your prayers, This is so hard...
Kevin Spainhour May 01, 2012 at 02:55 PM
We were towed in to Long Beach yesterday. We had a total electrical system failure and then the engine. Boat failure is not only possible, but likely. It happened to me.
Steve Grasha May 01, 2012 at 06:43 PM
The Aegean smashed into “The Coronados Islands at 1:36:36 PM Here is the yachts track and it's final blip! May they all rest in peace! http://www.sailinganarchy.com/index_page1.php Zoom View http://share.findmespot.com/shared/faces/viewspots.jsp?glId=0PPpktkSXb0QR2ojCNeoelyfYAx2eVZzF
Steve Grasha May 01, 2012 at 06:45 PM
The Aegean smashed into “The Coronados Islands at 1:36:36 PM Here is the yachts track and it's final blip! May they all rest in peace! http://www.sailinganarchy.com/index_page1.php Zoom View http://share.findmespot.com/shared/faces/viewspots.jsp?glId=0PPpktkSXb0QR2ojCNeoelyfYAx2eVZzF
Steve Grasha May 01, 2012 at 06:46 PM
The Aegean smashed into “The Coronados Islands at 1:36:36 PM Here is the yachts track and it's final blip! May they all rest in peace! http://www.sailinganarchy.com/index_page1.php Zoom View http://share.findmespot.com/shared/faces/viewspots.jsp?glId=0PPpktkSXb0QR2ojCNeoelyfYAx2eVZzF
Steve Grasha May 01, 2012 at 06:46 PM
The Aegean smashed into “The Coronados Islands at 1:36:36 PM Here is the yachts track and it's final blip! May they all rest in peace! http://www.sailinganarchy.com/index_page1.php Zoom View http://share.findmespot.com/shared/faces/viewspots.jsp?glId=0PPpktkSXb0QR2ojCNeoelyfYAx2eVZzF
ccollins May 01, 2012 at 09:39 PM
Thank you for the information, Steve. Sadly, there may have been a miscalculation or some other catastrophic cause for this to happen. My heart goes out to the familes.
TimT May 02, 2012 at 02:54 AM
Fair winds, following seas, fellow sailors.
Kiriakos Hajiioannou May 02, 2012 at 08:14 AM
THEFANIS OR, TEO OF FANIS IS A FAMILY MEMBER OF US IN ALEXANDROUPOLIS, WE HOPE TO FIND HIM. KIRIAKOS HAJIIOANNOU.ALEXANDROUPOLIS GREECE, SO BAD NEWS.
sean May 02, 2012 at 02:06 PM
Looks like they were under power at 2145 and simply headed straight for the Ensenada waypoint under auto pilot. Tragic error in voyage planning and watchstanding. Prayers to the families of the lost.
YIOULA May 02, 2012 at 02:29 PM
WHY DID THEY STOP THE SEARCH? HE MAY STILL BE ALIVE! PLEASE !!! THEOFANIS IS MY COUSIN AND I KNOW HIM WELL! I KNOW HE CAN SURVIVE! I CANNOT DO ANYTHING FROM GREECE HERE TO MAKE THEM CONTINUE! PLEASE DEMAND FROM THE AUTHORITIES THERE NOT TO STOP THE SEARCH!!

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