Commercial fisherman Phillip Sanchez has expressed gratitude tinged with guilt, after becoming the lone survivor of a boating accident that killed four of his friends off the coast of Northern California Saturday.
A sneaker wave capsized the 32-foot boat Sanchez was a passenger on during a crabbing gig near Bodega Bay, situated roughly 70 miles north of San Francisco. Sanchez, 66, swam for 25 minutes in 59-degree water, and severely lacerated his arm when he reached a rocky shore. Three men and one woman died in the incident off the Sonoma Coast.
Sanchez, who was pulled off of a rock via a sheriff's office helicopter long line commented that his will to survive saved his life - "I just knew I had to get there if I was going to make it."
Those who died are Jessie Daniel Langley, 79, and Sam Garcia, 86, both of Bodega Bay, and David Costa, 60, of Ripon. The fourth victim's identity has yet to be revealed. Commenting on the drownings, Sanchez said that no one on board was wearing a life jacket. "We're commercial fisherman. Nobody wears 'em," the angler remarked.
The following clip describes the general process of California crab fishing:
A sneaker wave, also called sleeper wave per the vernacular of the region, is a disproportionately intense coastal swell that can unexpectedly arise in the surf. Sanchez, who sustained no life-threatening injuries, said he never saw it coming, and that his friends were gone in a matter of seconds.
While maintaining that he feels lucky to be alive, Sanchez has expressed survivor's guilt. "I got to deal with the guilt, why me? That's the hardest part," Sanchez told San Francisco's KGO-TV.
The U.S. Coast Guard is presently investigating the incident, and Garcia's widow revealed that she went out fishing with her husband for years, and never wore a life vest.
"I went out with him for years, we didn't wear life jackets. We knew where they were, but they're so cumbersome," Judy Garcia remarked.