News Details

OCSD Harbor Patrol rescues 13 from sinking boat off Newport Beach


A quick response Sunday afternoon from the Orange County Sheriff’s Harbor Patrol led to the rescue of 13 passengers on a quickly sinking vessel about a half-mile off the coast of Newport Beach.

At approximately 2:20 p.m., the Harbor Patrol crew was dispatched to a location about a half-mile south of the entrance to Newport Harbor after a boat owner reported his 30-foot fishing boat, the Bonnie Mac, was smoking and taking on water.

The Bonnie Mac was a new addition to an Irvine family that had purchased the fishing boat just five months earlier.

Having just paid for maintenance on the boat approximately a week earlier, the abrupt alarm signaling the Bonnie Mac was taking on water shocked the 51-year-old boat owner.

He and his 18-year-old son, who had invited friends out for a cruise on the ocean, tried to find the source of the problem but were unable to identify the issue.

The owner turned the Bonnie Mac back toward Newport Harbor and continued to drive the boat in an attempt to use engine power and forward momentum to slow the flooding.

The owner called the United States Coast Guard for aid, but the USCG contacted the OCSD Harbor Patrol as the best option to quickly pull the passengers from the sinking fishing boat to safety.

An OCSD patrol boat was first on scene and a deputy evacuated 12 adults and teens onto his boat.

A short time later, two OCSD fire boats and a Newport Beach City Lifeguard vessel arrived and aided in the rescue. The passengers boarded the lifeguard boat while the Harbor Patrol crews set their focus on attempting to save the Bonnie Mac.  

Tying a rescue boat to the vessel, the crew used three pumps in an attempt to dispel water more quickly than the damaged fishing boat was taking it on, but the flooding outpaced the power of the pumps.

The weight of the sinking Bonnie Mac put so much tension on the rescue lines that the Harbor Patrol boat started to tip and the crew eventually had to cut the fishing boat free.   

The Bonnie Mac sank in under a minute at about 2:45 p.m.

 “Although we never like to lose a boat, we are very grateful that we were able to rescue the 13 passengers and nobody was injured,” said Sgt. Isaac Felter. “The deputies did an outstanding job.”

OCSD Harbor Patrol responds to approximately 4,000 calls for service every year between Orange County’s three harbors, with Newport Harbor fielding more than 2,000 of those calls.

Last year, deputies in Newport Harbor responded to 86 rescues. Sunday’s rescue marked No. 41 so far this year in Newport.

“We respond to a significant number of rescue calls every year, but this one was somewhat unique,” Felter said. “Being out of the harbor and in choppy seas presented an added challenge, but our deputies are well-trained for these kinds of situations.”

Members of OCSD Harbor Patrol assisted in pulling the Bonnie Mac from the ocean  to de-water it Monday night.