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Considered to be California’s best-unkept secret, Santa Catalina Island is a fantastic place to visit for travelers, day-trippers, cruise-liners, and vacationers. Tourism provides a way of life for the 4,000 residents permanently living on the island, according to the U.S. Coast guard and the latest census.
The Catalina coast offers pristine white beaches, crystal clear water, and many water activities, such as boating, fishing, and more. Fresh seafood and locally brewed beer are what keep the locals visiting.
Once on the island, you can rent bikes, golf carts, and even shuttle boats to travel from one end to the other. It is truly a South Pacific paradise.
Like any trip to an island, you can encounter bad weather, boat defects, and other problems that lead to a boat accident or any other type of accident resulting in injuries. Catalina Island has had its fair share of boating and other accidents that resulted in injuries to the visitors and even death, according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
The first-ever accident recorded on the island was in 1875 when John Patrick O’Connell drowned on the island. Back then there was no way to conduct a coordinated rescue operation. Since then, many accidents have been recorded, including fires, drowning ships, assaults, and more. The island recorded its first-ever murder in 1902. After that, and onwards, multiple agencies have had jurisdiction, according to the authorities who manage policing aboard the Island along with the U.S. Coast Guard.
On June 10, 2021, the family of Keion Dade, an aspiring 24-year-old man, reported him missing, sparking a search led by the US Coast Guard.
At 6 pm on a Thursday, a couple of crew members saw Keion Dade go overboard on the Catalina Express vessel, a ferry service operating scheduled trips between Santa Catalina Island and California.
On its way to Catalina Island, the ferry was three miles away from Long Beach when some crew members saw Keion Dade in the waters, shouting for help. They tried to help by throwing him a life ring, but the boat went too fast. Soon, the ferry came to a halt to go back and rescue Keion Dade, but it was too late.
When the boat returned to the spot where the crew members had last spotted Dade, no one was there. The waters were silent and dark, with no one in sight for miles. The captain of the Catalina Express called the US Coast Guard to report a missing person.
The news immediately resulted in a full-blown search by the US Coast Guard, the Sheriff’s department, and other law enforcement agencies, including helicopters and boats. By Friday morning, the US Coast Guard reported that the search and rescue team that included the Los Angeles County lifeguards had covered more than 120 nautical square miles, but there were no signs of Keion Dade.
The grieving family stated that the captain misinformed the US Coast Guard about the depth of the waters, which is why the Coast Guard had to forego sending a diver’s team to carry out a search. Unfortunately, after scouting the waters for an hour and a total of 600 square miles on Friday at 8.50 pm, the search ended.
Many are referring to the incident as a suicide; however, the victim’s grandmother stated that Keion Dade was just a sweet person and calling out for help, which rules out suicide concerns.
Since the search officially ended, the family started a GoFund campaign to raise money for a private search where they would utilize the funds to pay for underwater drones, dive teams, and boat rentals. The family has raised just a little over $25,000 in donations.
On June 25, 2016, just off Catalina Island, a small boat holding seven passengers capsized due to rough waves reaching four to six feet in height, resulting in three dead and four injured.
A good samaritan stopped his chartered vessel as it saw people in the water screaming for help. He helped the two survivors by pulling them out of the water onto his boat. In the meantime, the US Coast Guard sent immediate help after receiving the news.
The US Coast Guard helicopter detected one survivor on the rocks in the water and retrieved him safely. According to a Catalina Island Conservancy officer, the fourth survivor was found on the beach and later hospitalized, pending further comment at Avalon. The Long Beach fire department stated that two of the four survivors were in critical condition and were immediately rushed to a hospital. Unfortunately, three boaters were not found and were later reported dead. Reports from investigating personnel and seasoned deckhands suggest that the incident occurred at the back of the island, just off Salta Verde Point.
Following the three deaths, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s homicide division started their investigations, which is the standard procedure for such incidents.
Although this next boating accident is not recent, its details resurfaced recently in a podcast.
As part of the Rodriguez family tradition, the entire family would travel to the Catalina Island coast to spend quality time fishing at least once a month.
On May 18, 1986, the family again set off into the sea on their quest to reach Santa Catalina Island. After fishing for a day on the island, the family decided to return home. It was just like any regular fishing activity, except for the fact that they had gotten a bit late. The fog turned dense, and the night became darker than ever.
One of the children, 9-year-old Desiree, was sleeping when she was woken up by her startled father, who claimed the boat was sinking. Immediately, the two children jumped into the sea with life jackets, followed by their 29-year-old pregnant mother, father, uncle, and aunt. The boat capsized, and all six family members were now in the chilly dark waters of the Pacific.
After trying to survive in the water for a while, the father decided to swim to shore to ask for help, and he disappeared into the darkness, never seen again. The pregnant mother also died due to the cold water. Desiree wrapped a rope around her mother’s chest and tied it to the tipped-over boat so her body wouldn’t float away that Saturday morning when so many people died after they jumped overboard.
Things started to get worse when Desiree’s five-year-old sister slowly died from the cold. Desiree, her aunt, and her uncle tried to keep each other conscious so that neither would doze off and die in their sleep. The aunt tried to keep the rest of them hopeful, but the uncle soon ran out of hope and swam away from the boat.
Desiree went to bring back her uncle, but he was too tall and heavy to keep above the water. She let go, and he slipped under the surface, vanishing slowly before her eyes. Some time passed with her aunt in the water. Soon, Desiree lost her aunt, and it was just her alone. It was time that she moved away from the boat to find help, according to witnesses and other crews in the Calif search area.
Paul Strasser and Mark Pisano, two best friends, were newly appointed captains and fishing men. Their day was uneventful, with no catches. The fog was thick, but Strasser pressed on for one more round before heading back to the shore.
During their last rounds, they saw something shining in the water half a mile away. Strasser decided to move towards the shiny object, but when they closed the distance, they saw a woman, Desiree’s mother, dead tied to a boat. They also saw a woman face down in the water, quiet/dead, Desiree’s aunt. However, soon they came across a young girl in a life jacket with her head above water, trying to survive. It was Desiree.
Pisano saw the shocking scene and was pumped with adrenaline. He jumped into the water to help Desiree, the young girl struggling to keep her head above the water. Pisano brought her back on the boat and covered her in warm water bottles to warm her up. The law enforcement officials started searching for Desiree’s father, sister, and uncle, but after two days of searching and no leads, the investigation ended.
In 2021, on a podcast, Pisano was talking about the incident on Philip Friedman’s podcast and wondered what Desiree would be doing in life. One of his fans, Pablo Pena, was listening to the podcast when he realized that his co-worker once mentioned how she was the only survivor of a boating accident after skiff overturned.
He immediately reached out to Friedman and shared the details. The podcaster connected with Desiree, ready to meet the men who saved her, giving her a second chance in life. Friedman invited her to the podcast with the two survivors to reunite, making it an emotional episode for everyone. We’ll provide updates or an announcement as things become clearer from any surviving, rescued passenger that day, including deckhands, the Coast Guard and others at Avalon.
If you suffered injuries from a boating accident or any other accident on the island that was not your fault, contact us at + (833) LETS-SUE for a free consultation with our legal experts.
After an accident, you may be wondering about compensation and pursuing legal action against the negligent party but aren’t sure how to go about it. Reach out to us, and we will guide you through the complex legal process during the initial free case review.
Michael is a managing partner at the nationwide Ehline Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, APLC. He’s an inactive Marine and became a lawyer in the California State Bar Law Office Study Program, later receiving his J.D. from UWLA School of Law. Michael has won some of the world’s largest motorcycle accident settlements.
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