Channel Islands
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The following Incident Reports were extracted from the NPS Morning Reports/Coalition Reports from 1989-2024. They are not a complete record of all incidents which occurred in this park during this timeframe.


Friday, August 15, 1986
Channel Islands - Diving Fatality

Location: Annacapa Islands, Cat Rock

Summary: R.E.K. was an experienced diver, diving in 120 feet of water. He became separated from his diving buddy, who reported him missing. The Coast Guard was notified, and a Park Service boat responded within a half hour. R.E.K.'s body was recovered later in the day.

Thursday, November 20, 1986
86-42 - Channel Islands - Diving Fatality

Location: Anacapa Island

Mr. B.H. was diving with a partner near Anacapa Island when the two became separated. He was found 20 minutes later tangled in kelp in 30 feet of water with an empty air tank. He was brought to the surface and an unsuccessful attempt was made to revive him via CPR. Pronounced dead at the scene.

January 23, 1987
87-6 - Channel Islands - Suicide

Location: Shell Road, Ventura, CA

Mr. W.J.K., a ranger who had been employed at Channel Islands for just two days, was found dead of self-inflicted gunshot wounds at the above location. He had been a commissioned seasonal ranger in Alaska prior to being hired by Channel Islands as an interpretive ranger. A note was left. The park was advised by the Ventura PD. No further information is available at this time.

September 21, 1987
87-233 - Channel Islands - Ship Collision

Location: 15 miles SW of Pt. Concepcion

The ships Atlantic Wing (170 meters) and Pacific Baroness (150 meters) collided while in park waters. The Atlantic Wing was damaged but able to proceed under her own power. The Pacific Baroness, however, was disabled and - as of the time of the report - was under tow and still in danger of sinking. The ship has 320,000 gallons of diesel oil on board, and is leaking badly. A Coast Guard strike team was en route to deal with this problem. The owners have also hired a commercial cleanup team. Of greater concern is the possibility of the ship sinking, since she carries a load of granulated copper ore. According to the park scientist, this ore would present "an extreme hazard" to the ocean environment due to its high toxicity. An update will be available this morning (September 22) as soon as the park and regional office open.

September 23, 1987
87-233B - Channel Islands - Follow-up: Ship Collision and Sinking

Location: 4 miles due west of San Miguel Island

The 150-meter-long Pacific Baroness, which was involved in an accident with the Atlantic Wing yesterday morning, sank while under tow four miles west of San Miguel, the westernmost island in the park. The ship's fuel tanks have ruptured, and are spilling an unknown percentage of the 320,000 gallons that were on board into the ocean. Fish and Wildlife is reporting a 10-mile-wide slick between Point Concepcion and San Miguel, but NPS observers on the island have not yet seen it. An observer from the park is going up in an aircraft this morning to look for it. The Coast Guard is assembling a strike team on the mainland, and is also in the process of setting up an information center which will provide further updates on developments (no phone number for the center is yet available). It is not yet known whether the ship's holds, which contain a cargo of granulated copper ore, have been ruptured. As noted before, there is considerable concern about the effects of the toxic copper if it spills into the ocean.

New York Daily News Wednesday, September 23, 1987

3,000 feet into Davy Jones' locker

LADEN with copper ore, the Liberian freighter Pac Baroness settles into the Pacific Ocean, 16 miles off Point Conception, Calif., and about 125 miles northwest of Los Angeles. It sank (below) after colliding in dense early morning fog with another cargo ship, the 494-foot, 20,252-ton Panamanian earner Atlantic Wing, which was carrying a load of Hondas. The 564-foot, 14,412-ton Pac Baroness went down despite a grim battle by ship's officers to keep it afloat. Finally the crew was evacuated without reported injury but the ship went down 3,000 feet, probably too deep for salvage, a Coast Guard spokesman said. The Atlantic Wing continued to its destination despite extensive damage. Coast Guard said it will keep an eye on area off Port Conception for signs of pollution.

October 8, 1987
87-243 - Channel Islands - Looting of Shipwrecks

Location: Offshore waters

Undercover park rangers discovered that divers had been engaging in unlawful removal of historical artifacts from federally protected shipwrecks in Channel Islands National Park and in Channel Islands Marine Sanctuary. Acting on this information, park rangers, National Marine Fishery Service agents and Santa Barbara Sheriff's Office deputies boarded the charter dive vessel Vision, owned by Truth Aquatics of Santa Barbara. They found that divers on the ship, which had been chartered for a three-day diving trip, had removed hundreds of artifacts from the wreck sites of the Winfield Scott and the Golden Horn, both of which sank in the 1800's. Investigators interviewed approximately 25 of the divers and crew aboard the Vision, and, as a result of their findings, about 20 cases will be referred for prosecution to the Southwest Regional Office of the General Counsel of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. An additional ten cases will be referred to the Santa Barbara County District Attorney for prosecution.

December 18, 1987
87-279 - Channel Islands - Diving Fatality

Location: Anacapa Island

R.M. was diving off a dive boat near Anacapa Island, and was found unconscious about 200 yards southwest of the island. CPR was performed by a civilian paramedic on the boat, but without success. Drowning has been determined to be the probable cause of death.

March 22, 1988
88-43 - Channel Islands - Follow-up on Marine Artifact Pilferage Case

Location: Park waters

On October 4, 1987, National Marine Fishery Service agents, Santa Barbara Sheriff's Office deputies and park rangers boarded the dive vessel Vision and found hundreds of artifacts which had been removed from the wrecks of the Winfield Scott and the Golden Horn, both of which are within park boundaries. As a result of the subsequent interview of the 25 divers and crew members on board the Vision, about 30 cases were referred to state and Federal courts for prosecution on both civil and criminal charges. The information on the illegal collecting which provided the probable cause to board the ship had been gathered by two rangers who had worked undercover on the Vision for almost four days.

The Office of the General Counsel for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has since assessed the following civil penalties for violation of sanctuary regulations by damaging or removing artifacts from historic shipwrecks: $20,000 against the captain and owner of the Vision: $21,000, $15,000 and $11,000, respectively, against divers P., B. and B.; fines of $10,000 each against three more divers; fines of $5,000 each against nine divers; and fines of $1,000 against three divers. The total for all fines is $146,000.

The defendants must request a hearing or begin payments before March 25th. Criminal pre-trial hearings are scheduled in both Ventura County and Santa Barbara County for 16 of the defendants on April 11th. The attorneys for the defendants are challenging the state penal code section as being unconstitutionally broad and vague, and are also challenging the state's authority over shipwrecks.

Tuesday, January 24, 1989
89-10 - Channel Islands - Plane Crash

On January 5th, a single—engine, fixed-wing aircraft being flown by 76-year-old J.T. of Los Angeles disappeared and was declared missing by the FAA. The wreckage of the plane was found on the 19th in a deep, narrow and steep canyon on West Anacapa Island. Park rangers extricated J.T.'s body from the plane with difficulty; the aircraft itself is to be airlifted out. The cause of the crash has not been determined. (Herb Gercke, WRO).

Wednesday, May 24, 1989
89-103 - Channel Islands - Diving Fatality

On the 21st, W.D., 32, of Lancaster, California, was diving from a commercial dive boat off Annacapa Island with a group of other divers when he became separated from his partner. He was later spotted floating on the surface. The cause of death is unknown, and an autopsy is pending. (Jack Fitzgerald, CR, CHIS; report via CompuServe from PAD/ARO).

Wednesday, July 19, 1989
89-190 - Channel Islands - Three Diving Accidents

On July 1st, C.L., 34, of Ontario, California, was diving from the vessel "Sea Ventures" off Anacapa Island when he suffered from decompression sickness. Lockwood was transported via Coast Guard helicopter to the hyperbaric chamber at Los Robles Hospital, and is now recovering from severe brain stem and cerebral damage. On the 9th, J.W., 21, of La Canada, California, was diving from the vessel "Scuba Luver" near Yellowbanks off Santa Cruz Island when he was stricken with an air embolism to the brain while ascending to the surface. Two park rangers responded to the scene to administer first aid and evacuate the patient by Coast Guard helicopter to the chamber at Los Robles. J.W. spent seven hours in the chamber, and has now recovered fully. On the 13th, R.M. and S.G., ages and addresses unknown, were diving from the "Vision" near Santa Cruz Island. Although it is not yet clear what happened to them, both were stricken while diving and had to be transported - R.M. by a Navy helicopter and S.G. by a Coast Guard helicopter - to Los Robles. S.G. recovered from decompression sickness, but R.M. died the following day. The exact cause of death has not yet been determined. (C. Davidson, CHIS, via CompuServe messages to RAD/WRO and RAD/WASO).

Wednesday, April 25, 1990
90-76 - Channel Islands (California) - Rescue

On April 21st, D. and G.D., ages 30 and 32, of Granada Hills, California, lost their 19-foot Galaxy when it sank in rough seas three miles north of the park's Anacapa Island. The two men, who were dressed in trousers, flannel shirts and ski jackets, remained in the 54- degree water for an estimated three hours until they were recovered. Park rangers Beth Fulsom and Talmadge Magno responded to the scene of the sinking after they heard VHF radio reports of debris in the area of the accident. The two men were located, and the rangers administered advanced life support to D.D.. The victims, who were suffering from shock and hypothermia, were medevaced to a mainland hospital by USCG helicopter. The rescue was timely, as the victims would not have survived if they had spent much more time in the water. (Dispatch, CRTS, via CompuServe message from Herb Gercke, RAD/WRO, 4:30 p.m. EDT, 4/24/90).

Friday, July 20, 1990
90-200 - Channel Islands (California) - Drowning

On the morning of July 14th, two park rangers monitored a distress call from the vessel "Prime Time" while on boat patrol off the southwest shore of Anacapa Island. R.H., 60, a retired Army National Guard major general from Oxnard, California, was scuba diving with his son when he experienced some problems with his diving gear, ascended rapidly to the surface, and apparently had difficulty "punching" through the kelp ceiling. Shortly after reaching the surface, he became unconscious. The rangers arrived within minutes and continued the CPR efforts which had been initiated by family members for an additional 40 minutes. Shortly thereafter, a Coast Guard helicopter medivaced the victim to St John's Hospital in Oxnard where he was pronounced dead on arrival. The cause of death was drowning. (Jack Fitzgerald, CR, CRTS, via CompuServe message from Herb Gercke, RAD/WRO, 7/16).

Monday, July 30, 1990
90-204 - Channel Islands (California) - Follow-up on Shipwreck Looting Case

In October of 1987, 19 individuals and one corporation were charged with violating both federal and state laws protecting submerged cultural resources within the park. A total of 52 complaints (32 criminal and 20 civil) were filed against members of the California Wreck Divers Club and the owners of the dive boats involved in the incident. The information for the complaints resulted from a three-day undercover operation by two park rangers. Over the last two and a half years, the defendants' attorneys have filed writs, demurrers, and jurisdictional and constitutional challenges to the application to these laws. The pretrial hearings and motions to have the criminal cases dismissed ended in January, 1990, with final rulings by Superior Court in favor of the government. Last April, 12 defendants in Ventura County pled guilty to 21 criminal charges. Each defendant was fined $750, sentenced to two years' probation, and ordered not to dive on shipwrecks in the park without providing the NPS with prior notification. On June 6th, one defendant's case went to jury trial; after five days of hearing and two days of jury deliberation, a mistrial was declared due to a hung jury (nine voted for a guilty verdict, three voted for a not-guilty verdict). The Ventura County District Attorney's Office has subsequently decided not to re-try the case. Three other defendants who reside out of state have failed to appear and bench warrants have been issued for their arrest. One defendant who pled guilty was required to return a two and a half dollar gold coin (circa 1843) which was taken from the wreck site. The defendants who went to court in Santa Barbara also pled guilty, were fined $750 each, were sentenced to three years probation, and may not dive on wrecks within the park without prior notification to the NPS. One case was dismissed for insufficient evidence and one defendant pled guilty to trespass rather than to (charges of damaging historic objects as part of the plea bargain with the District Attorney. In June of 1988, 12 defendants in the Federal Civil cases prosecuted by the NCAA General Counsel's Office settled their cases by payment of penalties ranging from $20,000 for the dive boat owners to $1,000 for some individuals. In August of 1988, the remaining defendants requested a hearing before the administration law judge. The hearing lasted over three weeks and written arguments and rebuttals were subsequently submitted. To date, the judge has not issued a ruling in these seven civil cases. (Chief Ranger, ChTS, via CompuServe message from RAD/WRO).

Wednesday, September 26, 1990
90-338 - Channel Islands (California) - Falling Fatality

T.B. of Bethany, Oklahoma, was hiking with Nature Conservancy guides on private lands within the park on September 9th when he tripped and fell approximately 100 feet to the rocky shoreline of Pelican Harbor on Santa Cruz Island. Despite immediate assistance from two off-duty Ventura firemen/EMT's, T.B. died from his injuries. He was transported to a hospital in Oxnard by Coast Guard helicopter. (Jack Fitzgerald, CR, CHIS, via CompuServe message from Herb Gercke, RAD/WRO, 9/25).

Friday, October 26, 1990
87-243 - Channel Islands (California) - Update on ARPA Incident

On October 4, 1987, rangers, National Marine Fishery Service agents and Santa Barbara sheriff's deputies boarded the charter dive vessel Vision and discovered that divers on the ship had removed hurdreds of artifacts from the wrecks of the "Winfield Scott" and "Golden Horn", both of which are within the park. A series of prosecutions stemmed from that incident which have been recounted in morning reports over the past three years. Recently, seven Los Angeles members of the California Wreck Divers Club were fined a total of $132,000 for looting the wrecks. Individual penalties in the civil prosecution ranged from $1,000 to $100,000. In addition, all but one defendant pled guilty in criminal proceedings and received sentences ranging from $750 in fines to 30 days in jail. (Carol J. Spears, CT, CRTS, via (CompuServe message from Herb Gercke, RAD/WRO, 10/25).

Monday, February 25, 1991
91-56 - Channel Islands (California) - Sinking with Fatalities

Late on the morning of the 17th, the Coast Guard notified the park that they'd received a distress call from the vessel "Galliano", which was caught in ten to 15foot seas in park waters a mile north of West Anacapa Island. The Coast Guard dispatched two cutters and two helicopters to conduct a search and rescue operations, but the "Galliano" broke up and sank before they could arrive. All six persons who were on board were found. Three died, and the remaining three were treated for hypothermia. The victims hade been in 58 degree water for about an hour. The survivors were treated and released later that afternoon. [Jack Fitzgerald, CR, CHIS, via CompuServe message from Herb Gercke, RAD/WRO, 2/21]

Monday, February 25, 1991
91-57 - Channel Islands (California) - Rescue

R.R. was diving off West Anacapa Island from the dive boat "Chieftain" on the 16th when he ran out of air at a depth of about 80 feet and was forced to make a rapid emergency ascent. After returning to the surface, R.R. complained of chest pains, had difficulty in breathing and vomited blood. Companions administered oxygen; meanwhile, the vessel headed for port and contacted the Coast Guard. Ranger Talmadge Magno boarded the "Chieftain" as it left the park and provided advanced life support until a Coast Guard helicopter arrived and medevaced R.R. to a hyperbaric chamber. R.R. was released from the hospital on the 18th and will fully recover from decompression sickness and a ruptured lung. [Jack Fitzgerald, CR, CHIS, via CompuServe message from Herb Gercke, RAD/WRO, 2/21]

Wednesday, February 27, 1991
91-62 - Channel Islands (California) - Search; Fatality

At 9:00 p.m. on February 20th, K.S., 25, of Santa Barbara, California, contacted a park maintenance worker at her residence on Anacapa Island and told her that he was overdosing from the ingestion of an eighth of an ounce of marijuana. K.S., who had been camping on the island, demanded immediate evacuation by helicopter, then became agitated and physically aggressive when the employee tried to treat him and call for assistance from the mainland. No helicopter was available, however, and K.S. soon left the residence and walked off on an island trail. Rangers were dispatched from the mainland by vessel at 10:20 p.m. and arrived on the island at 11:35 p.m. They were unable to find K.S.. An extensive search was begun the following morning. The shoreline, the island, sea caves and offshore waters within six miles of the island were searched by foot, boat and helicopter without success. The search was resumed the following morning by park divers, and K.S.'s body was found on the ocean bottom in 20 feet of water at 2:20 p.m. K.S. apparently fell 170 feet from a cliff and drowned. [Jack Fitzgerald, CR, CHIS, via CompuServe message from Herb Gercke, RAD/WRO, 2/26]

Tuesday, January 7, 1992
92-2 - Channel Islands (California) - Search; Fatality

Around noon on Saturday, January 4th, B.B., 21, his brother M., 27, and three other members of their family headed out to Anacapa Island on their 36-foot sailboat. The brothers went ashore to explore caves on the island while two other family members went diving and the fifth stayed aboard the boat. When B. and M. failed to return, family members notified the Coast Guard, and they in turn notified the park. A joint air and ground search of the shoreline of the island was begun. The search focused on the island's northern shore after an independently-owned diving boat recovered a life jacket in the area. The search was suspended due to darkness before any further sign of the B.'s could be found. On Sunday morning, a Coast Guard helicopter spotted an empty inflatable raft just north of Cathedral Cave. Searchers focused on the area, and discovered the body of B.B. submerged inside the cave in mid-afternoon. No trace of M.B. was found. Storm surf and winds barred search efforts on Monday, but searchers do not expect to find M.B. alive. The brothers may have been caught in the cave during a storm-driven high tide and tossed against the rocks. During high tide, water levels can reach nine feet inside the cave, and it is nearly impossible to get in or out of the cave. Divers are prepared to continue the search as soon as conditions ameliorate. [Trish Moraga, CHIS, via SEAdog message from from Steve Martin, RAD/WRO, 1/6; United Press news stories, 1/5 and 1/6]

Wednesday, January 15, 1992
92-2 - Channel Islands (California) - Follow-up on Search

The search for M.B., which was suspended becasue of storms, was resumed on January 7th. The body of M.B.'s brother B. was recovered in Cathedral Cave on Anacapa Island on the 5th. Four divers searched the cave, but had to abandon their efforts due to swell conditions at the cave's entrance. A search of Cathedral Cave, surrounding caves and the adjacent sea floor was completed the following day without results. An extensive aerial search of Anacapa and Santa Cruz Islands and their off-shore waters was conducted by the park's contract helicopter on the 9th and also proved fruitless. The active phase of the search was accordingly concluded on the 10th. B.'s family hired private vessels and commercial divers to search the area; that effort concluded on the 11th. The county medical examiner has ruled that B.B. died of asphyxiation by drowning. [Jack Fitzgerald, CR, CHIS, via CompuServe message from Herb Gercke, RAD/WRO, 1/14]

Tuesday, February 18, 1992
92-37 - Channel Islands (California) - Storm Impacts

The series of intense storms which passed over southern California last week storms produced high seas, intense thunder and lightning, winds which blew in excess of 50 mph, and torrential rains. Up to nine inches of rain fell on the islands, sometimes at a rate of an inch an hour, and there were flash floods in canyons. No injuries were reported, but the Santa Cruz ranger station was evacuated as a safety precaution. Preliminary reports indicate severe trail, road and airstrip damage and some damage to park structures. Intermittent power failures and telephone outages were reported at park headquarters. Highways 101 and 126 were temporarily closed along with other major roads. A complete storm damage survey was to have been completed yesterday. [Jack Fitzgerald, CR, CHIS, via Herb Gercke, RAD/WRO, 2/12]

Friday, August 21, 1992
92-448 - Channel Islands (California) - Boat Accident; Possible Drowning

On the morning of Tuesday, August 18th, rangers came upon the 47-foot fishing vessel "Pleiades" aground at the mouth of Tecolote Canyon. A search for the missing operator, 37-year-old O.O. of Santa Barbara, was begun in conjunction with the Coast Guard. Rangers employed helicopter and ground teams in an extensive search of Santa Rosa Island and surrounding waters; Coast Guard personnel used a fixed wing aircraft, helicopter and two cutters to search from Point Conception south to Santa Barbara Island. As of Wednesday, O.O. had not been located. Investigators learned that he left Ventura harbor on Wednesday, August 12th, and was last heard from on the evening of the 14th. At that time, he told his wife that fishing was slow and that he was low on fuel. The search for O.O. continues, and hazardous liquids are being removed from the grounded vessel. [Cocky Farley, CHIS, 8/18]

Wednesday, January 19, 1994
94-14 - Southern California Areas - Follow-up on Earthquake

Brief follow-up reports on the quake have been received from two areas:

* Channel Islands - The park had a "rough ride", but experienced no serious problems. Phones and electricity were out briefly, but were restored Monday afternoon. There's no observable damage to facilities in Ventura.

[Ernie Quintana, CR, SAMO; Jonathan Lewis, CHIS; 1/18]

Tuesday, February 8, 1994
94-53 - Channel Islands (California) - Rescue

An unexpected winter storm which struck the California coast with winds in excess of 50 knots caused three shipwrecks in park waters on the evening of February 3rd. The "Ocean Citizen", a 48-foot sailboat owned by B.M. of San Diego, sank in deep water while under tow; the "Rampage", a fishing boat from Channel Islands Harbor, ran aground on Forney Point off of Santa Cruz Island; and the "Susie", owned by J.M. of Santa Barbara, ran aground in Cuyler Harbor on San Miguel Island. Park rangers rescued the two occupants of the latter on the morning of the 4th. The vessel's hull was severely damaged, and about 200 gallons of fuel spilled into harbor waters. An investigation of the incident led rangers to arrest Mecono on charges of abandoning property and polluting park waters. [Jim Hutton, CHIS, 2/7]

Friday, February 11, 1994
94-53 - Channel Islands (California) - Follow-up on Rescue

On February 3rd, a winter storm drove the "Susie", owned by J.M., aground in Cuyler Harbor on San Miguel Island. J.M. and a companion were rescued by rangers the following day. As was noted in the original report, J.M. was subsequently charged with abandoning property and polluting park waters. Despite the 150-gallon spill, which spread into park tide pools and affected breeding elephant seals who were on the beach, J.M. refused to initiate any clean-up actions and refused to take responsibility for the removal of the boat after removing valuables. He also refused to present any identification or give a home address to rangers and was combative. Since the park's experience has been that commercial fishermen are not likely to respond to a citation or appear in court, which in this case would leave the park with responsibility for the $15,000 bill for cleaning up the beach, J.M. was charged and arrested. He was released after an initial appearance before the U.S. magistrate. [Jack Fitzgerald, CR, CHIS, 2/8]

Wednesday, February 16, 1994
94-68 - Channel Islands (California) - ARPA Convictions

On January 21st, M.B. and M.P. pled guilty to ARPA violations which occurred in the park last fall; each was fined $150 and ordered to pay $500 in restitution to the Service for the cost of the investigation. The incident began on November 17, 1993, when M.B. and M.P., both commercial urchin divers, were observed collecting artifacts at a known archeological site on San Miguel Island. The ranger who spotted them, however, was unable to intercept the pair before they returned to their boat and left the area. A joint investigation was begun with state game wardens and Santa Barbara harbor patrol officers, and the vessel was tracked to Santa Barbara harbor. M.B. and M.P. were held there by local officers until rangers could arrive on scene. The two men were interviewed and turned over six artifacts that they'd collected, claiming that they thought that they were just unusual rocks. Rangers charged them with violations of 26 CFR 2.1(a)(6), removing and possessing archeological resources. They were also cited for violations of fish and game regulations, and M.P. was arrested on an outstanding warrant against him for failure to appear in court. The investigation continued for several weeks, during which rangers and park archeologists returned to the site to collect evidence, develop an archeological report on the site and the effects of the disturbance, and assess the seized artifacts. The reason for the low penalties assessed by the court was that the government was unable to demonstrate that the defendants were knowledgeable regarding their acts. [Jack Fitzgerald, CR, CHIS, 2/15]

Friday, September 16, 1994
87-x - Channel Islands (California) - Follow-up on Marine Resources Case

On September 12th, the United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, filed a ruling affirming the decision of a district court which had previously ruled in favor of the government and denied the appeals of the four remaining defendants in a 1987 case dealing with theft of marine archeological resources from the park. At that time, an investigation and undercover operation by park rangers on a dive boat off the park's islands led to the citing of 19 individuals and one corporation with 53 violations of state and federal criminal and civil laws. To date, all charges but one have been successfully prosecuted in favor of the government. The four remaining defendants face individual civil penalties that range from $1,000 to as high as $100,000. It does not appear likely that the matter will be heard by the Supreme Court. The Ninth Circuit ruling on this case has major significance both within the circuit and nationally; it establishes precedent for the protection of submerged cultural resources in national parks and marine sanctuaries. If you would like a copy of this ruling, send a cc:Mail message to Jack Fitzgerald at Channel Islands. [Jack Fitzgerald, CHIS, 9/16]

Friday, September 23, 1994
94-53 - Channel Islands (California) - Follow-up on Boat Sinking

An unexpected winter storm which struck the California coast last February with winds in excess of 50 knots led to the wrecking of the commercial fishing trawler, "Susie", owned by J.M. of Santa Barbara, in Cuyler Harbor on San Miguel Island. The vessel's hull was severely damaged, and about 150 gallons of fuel spilled into harbor waters. An investigation of the incident led rangers to arrest J.M. on charges of abandoning property and polluting park waters. That case is still pending before the court. Meanwhile, park staff, with the technical and financial assistance of WASO's Office of Environmental Quality, seized the vessel, secured the remaining petroleum products on board the boat to keep them from leaking, and removed all debris from the boat. This week, park maintenance workers, boat operators and rangers successfully removed the "Susie" from the park without incident. The 14-person salvage team had to employ a front-end loader and three vessels, including an 80-foot landing craft, to remove the boat. If the government is successful in its prosecution of J.M., reimbursement will be sought for costs associated with the boat's removal. [Jack Fitzgerald, CHIS, 9/22]

Monday, December 12, 1994
94-665 - Channel Islands (California) - SCUBA Diving Fatality

J.R., 40, a commercial sea urchin diver from the Santa Barbara area, was diving at Talcott Shoals off of San Miguel Island on December 9th when he was attacked by a shark, probably a great white. His tender got him back on board their boat, then contacted the Coast Guard. A helicopter was dispatched to the scene and transported J.R. to a hospital in Goleta. Although J.R. was still conscious when he was picked up, he died before arriving at the hospital. [Mack Shaver, Superintendent, CHIS, 12/9]

Thursday, January 12, 1995
95-06 - California Parks - Follow-up on Winter Storm Impacts

More reports have been received from California parks regarding the storms that have been buffeting that state:

* Channel Islands - The park received more than 15 inches of rain - 130% of its normal yearly amount - during the past week. Over 10 inches fell during one period of less than 24 hours. Stream flow totals on the islands may eventually equal that of a 500-year flood. On January 10th, the headquarters and visitor center in Ventura Marina became near islands due to flash flooding. Only a third of the park's staff was able to make it to work that morning; all were sent home by 10 a.m., and the facilities were closed for the balance of the day. Everyone was back to work the next day, but the facilities remained plagued by power outages. Extensive natural erosion and soil slump occurred on all islands, but damage to facilities has been less than expected. The trail systems on San Miguel, Santa Barbara and Anacapa Islands are still passable, but will require slide clearance, placement of fill behind retaining walls, and extensive filling of gullies to prevent further erosion and ensure visitor and employee safety. Damage is limited to about five miles of trails. The airstrip on east Santa Cruz Island will require grading to remove minor gullying, but the San Miguel and Santa Rosa strips only need to dry out to be usable. The Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz Island docks received only minor, easily repairable, wave damage. All 50+ miles of road on Santa Rosa Island are impassable due to eroded stream crossings, gullies, slides and sink holes. Eight to ten weeks of work with heavy equipment will be required to repair these roads. Utility lines (water, sewer and electric) were uncovered in the main ranch area on the island, but were otherwise undamaged and continued to function. They will be reburied as the roads are repaired. Building damage was mostly limited to that caused by rain water leaks in roofs and walls of the trailers on Santa Rosa and to a flooded but empty basement in a restored historic ex-Coast Guard building on Anacapa Island. Basement walls will have to be sealed in the latter. Historic ranch buildings on east Santa Cruz Island had flood waters enter the lower floors, but damage appears to be minor.

[C. Mack Shaver, Superintendent, CHIS; Craig Johnson, CR, REDW; PAO, SAMO; all reports, 1/11]

Tuesday, March 14, 1995
95-96 - Western/Pacific Northwest Regions - Follow-up on Storm Damage

Additional reports of damage from the severe storms of the past few days have been received:

* Channel Islands (California) - The storm dropped between two and three inches of rain on the park over the weekend. Although less than some other areas, the fall has had an extreme impact because the ground was totally saturated at the time. The rain caused substantial runoffs and extensive erosion to dirt roads and trails on all islands. Especially hard hit were the hiking trails on Anacapa and Santa Barbara Islands, which are presently closed to the public for safety reasons. Water bars are all eroded and blown out and erosion gullies of three to four feet are common. Santa Rosa Island has over 50 miles of dirt roads which can not be driven because of erosion damage and standing water. No buildings or facilities were damaged, however. Fortunately, funding to repair the damage from January's storms has not yet arrived, so only a limited amount of new trail and road work was lost in this storm. Erosion gullies are getting deeper, however, and will be harder to repair.

[Carl Christensen, RAD/WRO; Joe Lusa, CM, REDW; Don Neubacher, Superintendent, PORE; Jack Fitzgerald, CR, CHIS; Phyllis Shaw, JOMU; Leticia Ruiz, Acting Superintendent, PINN; Tom Tschohl, SEKI]

Wednesday, June 21, 1995
95-312 - Channel Islands (California) - Assault on Ranger

Ventura police officers pursued two men in a vehicle at high speeds to the dead end in front of the park visitor center on the afternoon of June 17th. The men, R.F. and T.M., abandoned their vehicle and fled on foot. A ranger who had just returned from exercising and was not in uniform saw T.M. attempting to evade police; he approached to within 20 yards of T.M., identified himself verbally, and ordered him to stop. T.M. instead pulled out a 9mm semi-automatic handgun, racked a round into the chamber, and pointed it in the direction of the ranger. The ranger, who was unarmed, jumped over a four-foot fence and retreated to his office to get his defensive equipment. The ranger than helped Ventura officer search park headquarters, where T.M. was found and taken into custody without further incident. R.F. attempted to flee by going in the water, but was retrieved by a police dog. The two men were booked for assault, possession of illegal drugs with intent to sell, and possession of illegal weapons. The park will work with the U.S. attorney's office to determine if assault on federal officer charges will be filed. [Jack Fitzgerald, CR, CHIS, 6/18]

Tuesday, August 15, 1995
95-523 - Channel Islands (California) - Search; Diving Fatality

On the afternoon of August 12th, O.J., 31, of Lompoc, California, was SCUBA diving with friends near Painted Cave off Santa Cruz Island. The group was between 80 and 100 feet below the surface when O.J. indicated to his partners that he was returning to the surface, then disappeared. Park rangers and Coast Guard personnel arrived on scene less than two hours later and began an extensive search of shorelines and of nearby ocean areas, employing three patrol boats and helicopter. Four SCUBA divers conducted a hasty search of the area. Due to the time of day, remoteness of the incident site and deep depth of the water, an effective underwater search could not be organized and conducted until the following day, when fourteen park and Santa Barbara county sheriff divers began a major search of the area. At 2 p.m., they found his body resting on a ledge at a depth of 85 feet. [Jack Fitzgerald, CR, CHIS]

Wednesday, June 5, 1996
96-256 - Channel Islands (California) - Archeological Resources Conviction

On May 20th, M.B., 30, and K.P., 37, both of Santa Barbara, pled guilty to two state misdemeanor charges - receiving stolen property and unauthorized acts on public lands - stemming from thefts of Chumash artifacts and a pygmy mammoth femur from Channel Islands and other archeological artifacts from state park lands. The case against the pair was developed through a multi-year investigation by criminal investigator Todd Swain and rangers from Joshua Tree and Channel Islands, with substantial cooperation and support from the state and Santa Barbara county. A search warrant served on their residence in July, 1995, led to the seizure of hundreds of artifacts. The pair had collected these items over many years, and some were mounted in display boxes. M.B. and K.P. were each fined $700 and sentenced to three years' probation; the entire collection was forfeited to the government. This is M.B.'s second conviction for removal of artifacts from Channel Islands (he was cited for surface collecting in December, 1993). [Jack Fitzgerald, CR, CHIS]

Thursday, January 23, 1997
97-26 - Channel Islands NP (California) - ARPA/NAGPRA Arrests

On Tuesday, January 14th, NPS rangers and investigators concluded a two-year- long undercover investigation into Archeological Resource Protection Act (ARPA) and Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) violations on East Santa Cruz Island. The investigation revealed that employees and hunting guides associated with a company called Island Adventures had been responsible for the disturbance of Chumash Indian burial sites, the removal of human remains, and the collection of archeological artifacts. Rangers and investigators, with assistance from the Santa Barbara County Sheriffs Department, served warrants at two island locations and one mainland location. B.K., a commercial hunting guide, was arrested on state felony charges for the wanton and irreparable destruction of a grave site and the removal of human remains. Two other commercial guides, D.M. and R.B., were arrested on misdemeanor violations. All three were released on bail, and B.K. has returned to the island. The investigation continues, and additional charges are being considered against Island Adventures owner J.O. Guides and island residents have been openly hostile to rangers, and have told undercover officers that they intend to commit acts of violence and retribution against both rangers and park facilities. The situation is further aggravated by the upcoming change in land ownership, which will occur on February 10th (a recent public law directs that the East Santa Cruz Island will no longer be jointly owned, with a quarter of the land still in private hands, and will now be wholly owned by the federal government). The combination of these two events has created a potentially dangerous situation for NPS personnel. Members of the Pacific West Field Area special events team are helping park staff protect resources and ensure that the property ownership transition proceeds smoothly. While some area newspapers have been supportive, several have been highly critical of NPS searches, arrests and overall presence on the islands. [Timothy Simonds, LAME, 1/21]

Wednesday, February 5, 1997
96-724 - Channel Islands NP (California) - Poaching Conviction

On November 5th, ranger Ian Williams came upon two Vietnamese men - T.P. and B. "M." N. - collecting marine invertebrates with screwdrivers on San Miguel Island. The men also had a large bag in their possession which contained 63 small black abalone, 14 limpets and over 200 marine snails. State wardens flew to the island and took the two men into custody. The men were unable to communicate in English; ranger Ho Truong from Santa Monica Mountains NRA provided translation. The two men said that they were commercial fishermen from a local port and that they planned to eat everything they had collected that night. On January 3rd, Tro T.P. plead guilty to illegally taking black abalone, which is closed to both commercial and sport taking year round. T.P. was ordered to serve 120 days, with a year's suspended sentence and three years' probation. T.P.'s fishing privileges were suspended pending a state hearing, and he was also ordered to pay restitution for the care and replacement of the abalone, a cost estimated at between $8,000 and $11,000. No information is available on the disposition of legal actions against B.N. [Kevin Hendricks, CHIS, 2/4]

Thursday, December 18, 1997
97-754 - Channel Islands NP (CA) - Storm Impacts: Scorpion Flood Incident

On December 5th, a storm dropped more than twelve inches of rain on Santa Cruz and Anacapa Islands, causing serious flooding and damage to park resources and facilities - sufficient to warrant the assistance of an incident management team to help restore park operations and facilities. The Intermountain-Midwest joint regional incident team arrived in the park on December 13th and is working closely with the park's staff to coordinate repairs. Historic structures and campgrounds on Santa Cruz Island suffered heavy damage and will not be fully opened to the public until an assessment can be made to determine the extent of the damage and ascertain what needs to be done to make the area safe for both employees and visitors. Anacapa Island received more than nine inches of rain, and trails were cut to a depth of more than three feet in some areas. Rain and wind also damaged the roof of the dive locker, flooded the ranger residence basement, caused extensive damage to the trail system, and inflicted some minor damage on a lift crane. The incident objectives in the delegation of authority from the superintendent are as follows:

o locate and identify imminent and potential safety problems and threats and make recommendations for immediate actions that can be taken to reduce life risk;

o locate and identify vulnerable park resources and recommend immediate actions that can be taken to protect these resources against further impacts or deterioration;

o ensure that the scientific community, park employees, management, the public, park users, neighboring communities, political leaders and others can use the assessment information;

o develop recommendations for properly disseminating assessment information to the media, regional and Washington offices, congressional staff, and the public; and

o minimize disruptions to normal operations.

William Holda (GRTE) is IC on the incident. Additional reports will follow. [Rich Littlefield, IO, Scorpion Flood Incident, 12/17]

Thursday, September 10, 1998
98-579 - Channel Islands NP (CA) - ARPA Conviction

On March 11, 1997, R.B., 57, his wife, and his brother-in-law, Thomas Butte, landed in their private plane on Santa Rosa Island, which is part of the park. R.B., a United Airlines pilot and former park volunteer, had visited the island frequently over the past twenty years. The B.s and Butte walked from the airstrip to an archeological site and dug two holes, disinterring the prehistoric human remains of three individuals. They then walked to another archeological site, where R.B. took an abalone shell that was later determined to be 6,300 years old. Rangers and Los Angeles police officers subsequently served a search warrant on the B. residence in Pacific Palisades and seized photographs, videotape, journals and notes documenting these activities. On July 20th, R.B. pled guilty to one misdemeanor ARPA count. He was fined $2,500, ordered to pay the park $3,100 in restitution, placed on probation for a year, and required to formally apologize to the Chumash tribal council. As part of his probation, he is banned from entering the park for a year. Butte, who is suffering from a terminal illness, has also written a letter of apology to the Chumash. Park staff from Channel Islands NP, Santa Monica Mountains NRA, and Joshua Tree NP participated in the investigation. The remains will be repatriated to the nearest lineal Chumash descendants by park archeologist Don Morris in the near future. The restitution will pay for the estimated costs of the repatriation. ARPA funding was used to investigate and prosecute this case. [Todd Swain, CI, JOTR, and Jack Fitzgerald, CR, CHIS, 9/9]

Thursday, October 1, 1998
97-26 - Channel Islands NP (CA) - Follow-up: ARPA/NAGPRA Arrests

On January 14, 1997, NPS rangers and investigators concluded a two-year-long undercover investigation into Archeological Resource Protection Act (ARPA) and Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) violations on East Santa Cruz Island. The investigation revealed that employees and hunting guides associated with a company called Island Adventures had been responsible for the disturbance of Chumash Indian burial sites, the removal of human remains, and the collection of archeological artifacts. Three guides were arrested and charged with various state offenses. On June 2, 1997, guides R.B. and D.M. each pled guilty to charges of wounding another's animal while hunting (a misdemeanor) as part of a plea agreement; each was fined $250. On September 5, 1997, guide B.K., who had been indicted on one felony and five misdemeanor charges, was convicted on several of these counts in state superior court after a three- week jury trial. B.K. was found guilty of obtaining or possessing Native American human remains from a grave (a felony), injury to an archeological object (a misdemeanor), and violations of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (also a misdemeanor). On November 10, 1997, B.K. was sentenced to 250 hours of community service and three years' probation and was fined $200. The 1,800- year-old human remains which B.K. disinterred were repatriated by Chumash descendants. B.K. appealed his conviction to the state appellate court. On September 17th, the court returned its decision, which upheld the conviction. Washington and regional ARPA and NAGPRA funds were used to pay for the investigation and prosecution. [Todd Swain, JOTR, 9/28]

Tuesday, February 1, 2000
00-021 - Channel Islands NP (CA) - Airline Crash

An Alaska Airlines MD-80 passenger jet with 83 passengers and five crew members aboard crashed into Santa Barbara Channel about two-and-a-half miles north of the lighthouse on Anacapa Island around 4:25 p.m. yesterday afternoon. The crash was first observed and reported by an NPS employee working on the island, then relayed by dispatch to the Coast Guard. The crash site is a mile-and-a-half outside the park's boundary. The Coast Guard is in charge of search and rescue efforts; the park is assisting with its 100-foot vessel, Ocean Ranger. The park is managing its response under ICS, with 14 people assigned to the incident when the report was transmitted late last night. Winds at the time were out of the northwest and blowing at 20 mph; swells were running from six to ten feet, with wind waves two to three feet high. The aircraft hit the ocean at a steep angle, nose first. There is a large debris field and the odor of fuel was evident in the impact area. The ocean is between 600 and 700 feet deep at that location. No survivors have yet been found, but the remains of some passengers have been recovered. The park employee who witnessed the crash is being kept from press interviews until NTSB and FAA investigators can complete a debriefing. IC for the incident is chief ranger Jack Fitzgerald. [Jack Fitzgerald, CR, CHIS, 1/31]

Wednesday, February 2, 2000
00-021 - Channel Islands NP (CA) - Follow-up: Airline Crash

Search and rescue operations for victims of the Alaska Airlines crash continue, but no survivors have been found. The park assisted the Coast Guard in the rescue effort until late yesterday afternoon, when park personnel were released due to fatigue. Two park craft - the vessel "Ocean Ranger" with a crew of seven and a rigid-hull inflatable patrol boat with two employees - had been assigned to the incident; a total of 17 park personnel were committed to the operation. NPS staff collected materials in the search area in extreme seas, both inside and outside the park and during daylight and darkness. They conducted area grid searches at the crash site and recovered some human remains and eight large cargo bags of aircraft debris and passengers' personal effects. A critical incident stress debriefing will take place today for all park personnel involved in the incident. The park employee who witnessed the crash was debriefed by the NTSB and provided valuable information. Park staff will likely be assisting with evidence collection along the park shoreline over the next several days and may also be asked to assist in the recovery phase of the operation. The focus of on-scene operations will shift in the near future from search and rescue to deep water recovery. A Coast Guard admiral is the on-scene commander. [Jack Fitzgerald, CR, CHIS, 2/1]

Thursday, October 12, 2000
00-643 - Channel Islands NP (CA) - MVA with Contract Employee Fatality

T.M., an employee of the Vail and Vickers Company who was working for the contractor that manages the commercial hunt of deer and elk on Santa Rosa Island, died in a motor vehicle accident in Bee Canyon on the afternoon of October 7th. T.M. was driving a four-wheel-drive truck down a slope off road to pick up an elk when he lost control of the vehicle. The truck rolled over twice. T.M., who was not wearing a seatbelt, was killed. The accident was witnessed by another hunt guide. [Jack Fitzgerald, CR, CHIS, 10/10]

Monday, July 17, 2006
Channel Islands NP
Capsized Fishing Vessel Threatens Island

On Tuesday, July 11th, a 35-foot fishing vessel, the Five Gs, capsized near Santa Cruz Island. The three crew members attempted to swim to shore, but only one made it. About 200 gallons of diesel fuel were on board at the time of the incident, as well as gillnets, engine batteries, and household hazardous waste. As of July 13th, the vessel was 40 yards from shore in Chinese Harbor on the north side of Santa Cruz Island. A dead common dolphin was sighted next to the hull of the Five Gs that may have gotten tangled in the nets and drowned. The NPS and FWS are involved in the incident response, as well as NOAA (this is a national marine sanctuary) and the Coast Guard. The incident is being managed under ICS, with a unified command in place. The park and county sheriff's office are also conducting a joint investigation into the two fatalities. Salvage operations were underway late last week and were to be completed by Friday evening. [Jack Fitgerald, Chief Ranger; Office of Environmental Policy and Compliance, Department of the Interior]

Tuesday, April 3, 2007
Channel Islands NP
Kayakers Rescued From Santa Cruz Island

Park and Coast Guard personnel rescued five kayakers stranded on a beach at Valley Anchorage on the south side of Santa Cruz Island on the morning of Friday, March 30th. The five kayakers were first reported overdue and missing after 8:30 p.m. on Thursday by other members of their camping party. Park staff on the island conducted a hasty search of the shoreline on the east end of the island prior to calling the Coast Guard at about 9:25 p.m. The Coast Guard dispatched 41-foot and 25-foot vessels from their station at Channel Island and a rescue helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station Los Angeles. Each arrived within the hour and searched the land, shoreline, and waters surrounding Anacapa and Santa Cruz Islands throughout the night with no results. Search efforts continued Friday morning with an NPS patrol vessel, a 41-foot Coast Guard vessel and a helicopter. The Coast Guard helicopter located the kayakers at approximately 7:10 a.m. on a narrow beach at Valley Anchorage on the south side of the island. Channel Islands rangers worked with a Coast Guard rescue swimmer to rescue the kayakers from the beach. The five kayakers had signs of mild hypothermia but suffered no injuries and required no medical treatment. They were transported by vessel to Scorpion Anchorage, where they rejoined the rest of the party. The five kayakers were part of a group of nine students from the University of California at Berkeley who were camping over the spring break at Scorpion Anchorage on Santa Cruz Island. They were novice kayakers and were ill equipped and unprepared for their kayak outing. They were apparently trying to circumnavigate the island without realizing that Santa Cruz Island has over 77 miles of coastline. After dark on Thursday, they landed at Valley Anchorage, a beach located about 11 miles from their departure point, and set up a shelter with their kayaks for the night. They were aware that a search was being conducted because they saw searchlights from the Coast Guard vessel and helicopter but they were not provisioned to signal their rescuers. The weather on the island was mild at the time of this incident with calm winds and seas and air and water temperatures in the low 50s. [Yvonne Menard, Public Affairs Specialist]

Friday, July 13, 2007
Channel Islands NP
Body Of Diver Recovered Off Sandstone Point

SCUBA diver S.H., 54, of Glen Allen, California, was reported missing by his diving partners around 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, July 10th. S.H. was on the third day of a three-day diving trip and was diving off the Adventure Sports dive boat Vision off Sandstone Point on Santa Cruz Island. He was last seen at a depth of 70 feet about 100 yards from the point where the boat was anchored. NPS and Coast Guard personnel and Los Angeles county lifeguards responded and conducted an extensive air, sea and underwater search of the area until dark, but were unable to find him. The search resumed the next morning, with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department joining in. The park and county conducted a joint underwater search operation off the NPS vessel Ocean Ranger. County divers found S.H.'s body on the seabed at a depth of about 80 feet around 10:30 a.m. The sheriff's office and the medical examiner's office are the lead agencies in the investigation. [Jack Fitzgerald, Chief Ranger]

Thursday, October 22, 2009
Channel Islands NP
Hiker Succumbs To Apparent Heat Stroke

On Friday, October 16th, a 49-year-old man died of what appears to have been a case of heat stroke following a prolonged hike in unseasonably hot weather on Santa Cruz Island. T.P., of Lake Forest, California, went on a 14-mile-long day hike with some friends from Prisoners Harbor to Scorpion Campground on Santa Cruz Island. The four men started their trek at approximately 11 a.m. in unseasonably hot conditions (record temperatures reaching up to 94 degrees) along terrain with little shade and no wind. According to his hiking partners, T.P. exhibited signs of fatigue early in the hike and experienced increasing difficulty throughout the day. He was assisted the last couple of miles and became unconscious and unresponsive shortly after 5 p.m. upon arrival at the Scorpion Valley campground. Immediate care was provided by an off-duty fire captain, a kayaking guide, and NPS maintenance and volunteer staff. The response lasted for almost an hour and included the use of an AED and CPR. The island protection ranger provided guidance and communications via radio, as she was several miles away. A Ventura County Sheriff's Department helicopter was dispatched and flew to the island to provide EMS support and transportation. Paramedics continued with resuscitation efforts for close to 30 minutes. T.P. was declared deceased at 7:30 p.m. A ranger provided T.P. and his group a general safety orientation upon their arrival the day before, which included information about staying hydrated while hiking on the island. They were met by another ranger the day of the incident and again given a safety briefing and advised to carry more water. They were each carrying approximately two liters of water at the start of their hike. [Mike Morales, Acting Chief Ranger]

Thursday, May 13, 2010
Channel Islands NP
Hiker Dies Of Injuries Suffered In Fall

A 22-year-old man died last Saturday afternoon after a 60-foot fall off the cliff at Potato Harbor on Santa Cruz Island. T.C., a student from Santa Barbara City College, landed on a ledge situated about 60 feet below the top of the cliff and well over 200 feet above the harbor. Ranger Randy Nelson responded after being notified at about 2:30 p.m. by one of T.C.'s friends. He and two other park employees were able to safely descend the slope at Potato Harbor, where they found two bystanders assisting T.C.. Nelson found T.C. unconscious, unresponsive, and with labored breathing. Initial emergency medical treatment and monitoring continued until a Ventura County Sherriff's Department search and rescue helicopter arrived with paramedics. Shortly following their arrival, T.C.'s condition worsened and CPR was begun, but he did not survive. [Yvonne Menard, Public Information Officer]

Monday, March 14, 2011
Pacific Coastline Parks
Tsunami Causes Little Damage To Parks

The 8.9 earthquake that struck Japan last Friday - the fifth largest quake in the world since 1900 and nearly 8,000 times stronger than the one that recently devastated Christchurch, New Zealand - produced a tsunami that crossed the open and came up on the shores of park beaches from Guam to the West Coast. No visitor or employee injuries have been reported. The following summarizes reports submitted from all affected areas:

Channel Islands - No known impacts. Employees were temporarily evacuated and vessels launched to open ocean as a precaution.

[Dean Ross, Deputy Chief of Emergency Services, WASO; Karen Gatewood, Acting Regional Chief Ranger, PWRO; Steve Chaney, Superintendent, REDW; Kim Coast, Acting Chief Ranger, GOGA; John Quinley, Public Affairs, ARO]

Wednesday, June 20, 2018
National Park System
Man Sentenced To Prison Term For ARPA Violations

An investigation by NPS special agents has resulted in a prison term for a man who trafficked in prehistoric artifacts looted from public lands.

G.W., 60, was recently sentenced to serve 15 months imprisonment for three felony ARPA violations. Court records show that G.W. bought approximately 30 artifacts illegally removed from a Hopewell culture burial mound in Indiana. Such mounds are sacred spaces built by American Indians almost 2,000 years ago. Hopewellian people gathered at earthwork complexes for feasts, funerals, and rites of passage.

G.W. also trafficked in artifacts from American Indian burial sites in Kentucky and along the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, and was implicated in the trafficking of artifacts from Channel Islands National Park, Lake Mead National Recreation Area, and other public lands in Arizona and New Mexico. The cultural artifacts included prehistoric chert blades, stone tools, ancient ceramic pots, and a ladle.

During the sentencing hearing, the federal judge told G.W. that he was disturbed that G.W. had chosen to dig the graves of the ancestors of American Indians for profit, and had done so while being well aware of the laws he had chosen to violate.

Special agents from across the National Park System conducted the three-year investigation with assistance from the FBI's Bowling Green Resident Agency and prepared the case for prosecution by the US Attorney's Office for the Western District of Kentucky. G.W. pleaded guilty to the charges in March.

Source: National Park Service Investigative Services Branch.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019
National Park System
Government Shutdown Reaches Record Length

As of today, the government has been shut down for 26 days, a new record for shutdowns. The huge sign that appeared recently on the side of the federal building in San Francisco about sums up the perspective of federal workers regarding this ongoing fiasco — "Sorry, We're Shut Down. Tantrum In Progress." Here's a summary of media stories about its impacts on the national parks that have appeared over the past week, grouped under four headings.

The National Parks — Articles on the effects of the shutdown on several specific National Park Service areas:

Channel Islands NP — The park has closed Upper Scorpion Campground and nearby trails on Santa Cruz Island because of dangers posed by a fallen eucalyptus tree. The park is looking into the possibility of using recreation fees to restore access to not only the Upper Scorpion Campground, but also the Scorpion Canyon Loop Trail and the Upper Scorpion Canyon Trail to Potato Harbor. Source: Ventura County Star.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019
Channel Islands NP
At Least 25 Killed In Commercial Dive Boat Fire

At approximately 3:30 a.m. on Monday morning, the Coast Guard and partnering agencies responded to a vessel fire off the north shore of Santa Cruz Island near Platt's Harbor in Santa Barbara County.

Emergency responders found the vessel — the Conception, a 75-foot commercial diving boat based out of Santa Barbara Harbor — fully engulfed in fire. The vessel sank to the ocean floor about four hours later.

Five of the 39 people on board — six crew members and 33 passengers — were rescued and a total of four bodies had been recovered at the time of the park report; later news stories, however, upped the latter number to 25.

Unified command was established between the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office, Santa Barbara County Fire, the Coast Guard and National Park Service. A one-mile safety zone has been established around the area as search and rescue efforts continue. A 3,000 foot temporary flight restriction has also been established around the site of the fire. The cause of the incident is under investigation and names are being withheld pending notification of kin.

A Family Assistance Center (FAC) has been established at the Earl Warren Showgrounds located at 3400 Calle Real, Santa Barbara, 93105. Family members may call the County's Call Center at 833-688-5551 for more information. The public can call 2-1-1 or if outside of the 805 area code, call toll free (800) 400-1572.

Source: Yvonne Menard, Channel Islands NP.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020
National Park System
Follow-ups On Previously Reported Incidents

Below are short follow-ups on incidents previously reported in this newsletter.

Channel Islands NP — On September 2, 2019, a fire on the dive boat Conception killed 34 people off Santa Cruz Island. Now, a year later, the NTSB has announced it will hold a hearing in October to reveal the results of its investigation. A preliminary NTSB investigation concluded that five members of the crew were asleep in the wheelhouse and that there was no roving watch on the vessel operated by Santa Barbara-based Truth Aquatics, as required by the U.S. Coast Guard during the hours when passengers were asleep below deck. But the more extensive examination of the origins, cause and events leading up to the Conception being burned to the waterline has taken months of investigation led by NTSB board member Jennifer Homendy. The board will vote on findings, probable cause and recommendations for changes to small passenger vessels to avoid a repeat of what its chairman called a "horrible, horrible tragedy." Source: Richard Winton, Los Angeles Times.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020
National Park System
Follow-ups On Previously Reported Incidents

Below are short follow-ups on incidents previously reported in this newsletter.

Channel Islands NP — The captain of the dive boat Conception, which went up in flames off the park's coastline last year, leaving 34 people dead, was indicted on December 1st on 34 counts of seaman's manslaughter. A federal grand jury alleges that J.N.B., 67, "was responsible for the safety and security of the vessel, its crew, and its passengers." The indictment alleges that J.N.B. caused the deaths of 34 people "by his misconduct, negligence, and inattention to his duties." Full article. Source: CNN.

December 28, 2022
Channel Islands National Park
Boat goes aground

On December 15, a 60-foot fishing boat named "Speranza Marie" ran aground in Chinese Harbor on Santa Cruz Island. The boat was carrying 16,000 pounds of dead squid and a crew of six people. None of the crew were hurt during the incident. As of December 19, diving and salvage contractor crews were working to stabilize, defuel, and remove the boat. NPS personnel are assessing how much fuel might have leaked into the intertidal zone and Oiled Wildlife Care Network is on-site to help with wildlife rehabilitation efforts. One dead cormorant has been reported thus far. Staff are also working to remove and dispose of the squid because it is a wildlife attractant. The cause of the incident is under investigation. Source: KSBY

February 8, 2023
Channel Islands National Park

A series of storms in January 2023 caused rockslides on the Nidiver Canyon Trail. Since it is the only "practical public access point" on San Miguel Island, all trails and facilities on the island are now closed to the public, except for the sandy beaches of Cuyler Harbor. The park is working to make repairs, but there is no estimated reopening date yet. Source: Channel Islands National Park

February 8, 2023
Channel Islands National Park
Follow-up on Previously Reported Incident

A 60-foot fishing boat that went aground in Chinese Harbor on Santa Cruz Island on December 15, 2022, has now been removed. The vessel had 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel and 16,000 pounds of squid aboard, which crews worked to salvage. The boat was lifted onto a barge by Global Diving and Salvage on January 24. It was transported to a recycling facility in Long Beach, California, and clean-up in the Chinese Harbor is ongoing. Source: KEYT

June 7, 2023
Channel Islands National Park
Follow-up on Previously Reported Incident

The park has reopened Santa Barbara Island to public visitation. Winter storms had caused substantial damage to the dock wharf and its adjacent building. Repairs are ongoing, but access has been restored. San Miguel Island remains closed and trail work is expected to occur this summer. Cuyler Harbor on San Miguel Island remains open to public visitation. Source: Channel Islands National Park

June 21, 2023
Channel Islands National Park
Charter boat sinks

On June 15 around 2 am, a charter vessel struck a rock and began taking on water near Santa Cruz Island. Everyone on board, which consisted of ten passengers and four crew members, left the ship via a life raft. The captain anchored the vessel in place. The Coast Guard issued a marine radio broadcast asking for help from nearby vessels and dispatched a boat and helicopter from the mainland. A nearby vessel was able to take on the passengers and crew, and they were later transferred to boats from the Coast Guard and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to return to the mainland. The Coast Guard found the charter vessel still anchored and fully submerged, and a sheen was seen on the water. The Coast Guard is working with other partner agencies to respond to the pollution. Source: KSBY

September 6, 2023
Channel Islands National Park
Follow-up on Previously Reported Incident

Investigators from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives have determined that the fire aboard the Conception dive boat just off the coast of Santa Cruz Island on September 2, 2019, was started inside a plastic trash can on the main deck. A source of ignition has not been identified. 34 people were trapped below deck by the flames and died of smoke inhalation. The captain of the ship is scheduled to be tried in federal court next month for 34 counts of manslaughter. Prosecutors argue that the captain did not use an overnight roving watch commander, as required by Coast Guard regulations. On August 31, the captain's attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the case because the ATF investigation "could not determine the cause of the fire." The families of those who died have also sued the U.S. Coast Guard for certifying the boat despite safety issues. Source: Los Angeles Times