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Dublin: 2°C Thursday 20 January 2022

Two Irish men missing after US yacht accident

The US Coast Guard has suspended the search for survivors after tragedy hit the Full Crew Farallones Race and members on board the Low Speed Chase were swept from their boat.

This framegrab image provided by the U.S. Coast Guard shows one of three crew members from the yacht Low Speed Chase being rescued
This framegrab image provided by the U.S. Coast Guard shows one of three crew members from the yacht Low Speed Chase being rescued
Image: AP Photo/US Coast Guard

TWO IRISH MEN are still reported to be missing from a yacht which capsized in San Francisco.

It is understood that the missing men’s names are Alan Cahill and Elmer Morrissey. The other missing were named as Jordan Fromm, of San Rafael, California; and Alexis Busch, of Larkspur, California.

A spokesman for the US Coast Guard on Morning Ireland said they received two notifications about the incident at approximately 3pm on Saturday. He said that initially, there were eight people on the boat. Three were recovered very quickly and shortly afterwards they located one person deceased in the water, which left four people missing.

He could not confirm the Irish men were missing. A spokesperson from the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs said: “We are aware of the reports. Our consulate in San Francisco is liaising with the Coast Guard and are providing consular assistance.”

The Coast Guard suspended the operation about 7am Irish time after 30 hours of searching an area of 5,000 sq miles. The spokesman told Morning Ireland it is unlikely to resume.  He noted that as time goes on the search area gets larger and larger but the probability of survival is also going down, and the temperature of the water is very chilly.

The Full Crew Farallones Race typically see winds averaging 10 to 20 knots and churning 14-foot Pacific Ocean swells. But on Saturday, powerful waves and a disastrous series of events brought rare tragedy to the august race and the San Francisco Bay area’s large sailing community.

One crew member died and four others remained missing at sea after two strong waves swept them from their boat near the rocky Farallon Islands, the halfway point of the 54-mile race that began at daybreak in San Francisco and had 49 entrants.

It was the first known fatality in the 143-year history of the San Francisco Yacht Club, which managed the race for the Offshore Yacht Racing Association and where the yacht involved in the accident, the 38-foot Low Speed Chase, was based, club director Ed Lynch said.

The race community is a very tight-knit group of people, and obviously this tragedy has reached far and wide around the world. It’s an event that will give everybody pause.

Low Speed Chase’s owner and captain, 41-year-old James Bradford of Chicago, was among the three survivors whom the US Coast Guard, assisted by National Guard helicopters, pulled from one of the islands about 300 feet from their damaged vessel, Lynch said.

Bradford and another crew member were briefly treated at a hospital, while the third survivor was admitted overnight with a broken leg and contusions, he said.

The seven men and one woman on board ranged in age from their 20s to their 40s, according to Lynch. He said the San Mateo County Coroner’s Office has identified the crew member whose dead body was pulled from the water as Marc Kasanin, 46, of Belvedere, California.

Lynch said the yacht club, which is located just over the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco in Belvedere, has 1,400 members and is a place where “lawyers, carpenters and doctors can all have a beer together and talk about their love of sailing.”

The Farallon Islands are a destination to go and sail around, and it is certainly some of the toughest conditions around in a sailing environment. It’s not for everybody, but for the people who do it, it’s a thrill.

The conditions during Saturday’s race were typically rough, but Low Speed Chase ran into trouble when it was broadsided by a large wave and some crew members were swept overboard, he said.

As the boat was turning around to get them, a second wave flung all but one of the remaining crew members into the water and the yacht aground, Lynch said. At least one other boat in the race witnessed the accident, but was unable to render aid without endangering its crew, he said.

The vessel master told investigators the yacht was rolled several times by the waves, the Coast Guard said.

During the day, people dropped roses and tulips by the entrance of the San Francisco Yacht Club, which hosted a members-only candlelight vigil and prayer service Sunday evening to honour the missing crew members and the one who died.

Anne Kasanin, the mother of the sailor who died, attended the service and was touched by how many people knew her son, who started sailing at age 7 and lived his whole life on the cove where the yacht club is located.

Bradford and the other two survivors attended the vigil, but were too distraught to talk about their experience, Lynch said.

- Additional reporting AP

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