LOS ANGELES - A yacht involved in a race off the coast of California and Mexico apparently collided at night with a much larger vessel, leaving three crew members dead and one missing, a sailing organization said early Sunday. It was the state's second ocean racing tragedy this month.
The 37-foot Aegean carrying a crew of four was reported missing Saturday during a 125-mile Newport, Calif. to Ensenada, Mexico yacht race, the U.S. Coast Guard said.
The Newport Ocean Sailing Association, the race organizer, said the accident occurred late Friday or early Saturday several miles off the coast near the ocean border of the two countries.
"It appeared the damage was not inflicted by an explosion but by a collision with a ship much larger than the 37-foot vessel," association spokesman Rich Roberts said in a news release early Sunday.
Race officials believe there are few other possibilities for what caused the accident, Roberts later told The Associated Press, speaking by phone from Ensenada.
He said details were still scarce but it was possible that if the smaller boat was bobbing around in light wind, the crew might not have been able to get out of the way of a larger ship, perhaps a freighter.
The race goes through shipping lanes and it's possible for a large ship to hit a sailboat and not even know it, especially at night, he said.
Roberts said a race tracking system indicated that the boat disappeared about 1:30 a.m. PDT Saturday.
A Coast Guard search turned up the boat's wreckage, including the rear transom with the boat's name on it, the association release said.
Three crew members of the sailboat were found dead and a search was under way early Sunday for the fourth. Coast Guard boats and two aircraft as well as Mexican navy and civilian vessels were involved.