Search continues for body of man missing after fatal crash off Catalina Island

Rescue boats plied the waters off Catalina Island on Monday for a boater missing after a crash that killed a fellow passenger.

The accident near Descanso Bay occurred early Sunday morning when a dinghy carrying five passengers collided with another larger vessel measuring approximately 14 feet, said Capt. Douglas Fetteroll of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. At the time of the collision, both vessels were moving, but it’s unclear if either was using lights, Fetteroll said. The investigation into the collision is ongoing.

One man, identified as Michael Harris, died, two others suffered minor injuries and a third sustained a head injury, authorities said. The operator of the larger boat suffered minor injuries but did not require hospitalization, Fetteroll said.

Harris was the son of the former chief executive of the San Francisco 49ers, Peter Harris, who confirmed his death in a Facebook post.

Rescuers have been unable to locate the dinghy’s fifth passenger, a man whom authorities declined to identify, in the wreckage or during two daylong searches. The Coast Guard suspended its search Sunday night, but two boats from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and one from the port police continued to look for the man’s body until 2 p.m., when the search was called off for the day. Officials said they would resume Tuesday morning.


A Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman said the search was considered a recovery operation and no longer a rescue.

“They don’t expect to find this person alive at this point,” Deputy Amber Smith said. “It would be wonderful if they did, but they don’t expect that.”

Two other search operations were also continuing Monday. In waters off Santa Barbara County, the Coast Guard was looking for a man seen disappearing into the ocean near Point Sal Beach State Park.

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A Coast Guard spokeswoman said a bystander reported the man being swept off the beach about 4:30 p.m. Sunday. The Coast Guard dispatched a helicopter, a cutter and a second boat to search Monday.

Also, boaters from Orange County to Catalina to the Ventura County coast were being urged to look for a blue whale that became tangled in fishing lines last week near San Pedro. The 80-foot whale was last seen Friday trailing about 400 feet of line between Los Angeles Harbor and Catalina.

“Everybody out on the water... is keeping an eye out for it and that’s all we can do at this point,” said Justin Viezbicke, California Stranding Network coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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Times staff writer Matt Hamilton contributed to this report.


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