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1 Dead, 1 Missing in Canoe Mishap

January 4, 1999

OXNARD, Calif. (AP) _ Strong wind flipped an outrigger canoe, tossing six members of an experienced paddling team into 50-degree Pacific water dressed only in shorts and T-shirts. One man died, another was missing and a third was in critical condition.

The six set out from Channel Islands Harbor in a 40-foot outrigger early Sunday to row to an oil platform about 10 miles off the coast. Only about 1 1/2 miles into the trip, the boat capsized in 40 mph winds and sank, Coast Guard Lt. Dan Deptula said.

``This was totally a freak accident,″ said crew member Michael Davis, one of those who was rescued. ``We were very trained, skilled at what we do.″

None of the group was wearing a life jacket, Deptula said.

The group detached the canoe’s outrigger and tried to float to shore, but they were thrashed by high waves amd a strong current pulled them toward the open sea.

John Devlin, 50, of Oxnard drowned as a result of extreme hypothermia about 90 minutes after the boat capsized.

After Devlin died, Justin Heard, 28, decided to swim to shore. He was rescued by a sailboat about four hours later, the Coast Guard said. He was in critical condition with extreme hypothermia at St. John’s Regional Medical Center.

Another crewmate, Scott Sullenger, 36, left the group about an hour after Heard did, also hoping to swim to shore. He remained missing early today.

``We’ll keep doing all we can for now, because you can never tell,″ Deptula said. ``But it’s going to be difficult. The person was not wearing a flotation device.″

The three others who stayed together _ Davis, 30; Ben Tai Tai, 50; and Tino Rico, 38 _ were rescued by a fishing vessel shortly after noon as they drifted about 2 1/2 miles from shore, Deptula said.

The three were treated for hypothermia and released.

Devlin’s body, which the trio had kept with them, was recovered when they were rescued.

``We were just trying to hold him,″ Davis said. ``Ben Tai Tai held him in his arms for about 45 minutes.″

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