The "panga" drug boats that come ashore in Southern California often come across as a sad bunch, rundown watercraft driven by desperate immigrants and filled with low-quality drugs.
But over the weekend tragedy struck and the invasion of drugs on rickety boats from Mexico just became a big story.
Authorities say U.S. Coast Guard Executive Petty Officer Terrell Horne died after his boat was rammed by a panga:
It happened early Sunday off Santa Cruz Island after a Coast Guard patrol aircraft noticed the panga and the cutter Halibut moved in to investigate, according to a USCG statement.
Horne was aboard a small boat deployed to get even closer, USCG officials said. The panga's operator rammed the government boat and two Coast Guard members, including Horne, were thrown overboard.
The cutter deployed its small boat which made an approach on the suspect vessel, which was running darkened ship, meaning it was operating without any navigational running lights or other illumination. When the Coast Guard small boat approached with its blue law enforcement light energized, the suspect vessel, identified to be a profile Mexican style panga, maneuvered at a high rate of speed directly towards the Coast Guard small boat and struck it before fleeing the scene.
Though both crew members were immediately pulled from the water, Horne suffered "traumatic head injuries," according to the USCG. The other law enforcer survived with minor injuries, officials said.
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The panga was chased down and stopped; two people aboard were detained, according to the USCG.
According to reports Horne is from Redondo Beach.