Three Bay Area men headed out to the Farallon Islands Saturday but only two returned after the boat they were on capsized.
Bert Leroux, one of the survivors, said the trio, which included San Francisco residents Dave Bolich and Pat Booker, set sail from Oyster Point. They turned off the boat at a spot off the islands where they frequently go fishing, he said.
But, Leroux, 56, of San Bruno said things suddenly went awry when the boat started taking on water. He hurriedly put on a life jacket but Bolich and Booker weren’t fast enough.
The vessel flooded and capsized within two minutes, Leroux said, recalling that he was thrown under the boat.
U.S. & World
The day's top national and international news.
Despite launching a personal locator beacon to tell the Coast Guard they were in trouble, the men spent nearly 1.5 hours in the cold water before they were spotted by the captain of a tour boat. But Booker, who was 83, died either due to hypothermia or drowning before they were helped, said Leroux.
"It was a very unfortunate accident," he said.
Captain Joe Nazar of San Francisco Whale Tours was out at sea with 72 passengers on board when he heard a mayday call on the radio. He and his crew decided to veer off their tour and race to the accident two miles away, he said.
According to Nazar, it was very foggy and the swells were huge -- that's why the Coast Guard couldn't get its chopper there.
When the tour boat arrived, its crew found two men – Leroux and Bolich – clinging to the bottom of a 28-foot boat and Booker’s body floating in the water. A video has captured the rescue effort and depicts tourists cheering.
"I was so happy to see that boat," Leroux said. "It was like God sent it there."
But when asked why the boat capsized, he replied, "I have no idea." The vessel was taken out of the water Monday and results from an ongoing investigation should be available in the coming days, he said.
"I feel so bad that I am alive," Leroux said, his voice breaking. "My partner Dave and I grieve every moment for the loss of our buddy Pat who died doing what he loved – fishing."