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Sailors submit independent report on Aegean wreck

The three-member team took underwater photos of what they believe are some of the vessel's remains.

June 19, 2012|By Lauren Williams
  • A piece of debris is pictured below the water near North Coronado Island, where the Aegean is believed to have ran aground before splintering and sinking. The picture is one of several an independent group of sailors took to find out more about the demise of the Aegean in the annual Newport to Ensenada Yacht Race.
A piece of debris is pictured below the water near North… (Courtesy JOHN R.…)

An independent group of sailors has issued more information concerning the Aegean's fatal crash in April during the Newport to Ensenada Yacht Race.

Using their own GPS device, the three-member team visited the final three points of the Aegean's course near North Coronado Island that were reported by the boat's tracking device through a commercial website.

While there, the team saw blue bobbing debris near the Mexican-controlled island's rocky shore and below the water southwest of the island's northern tip, where the Aegean's private GPS device indicated that the vessel may have run aground.

Using an underwater camera attached to a pole, San Diego resident John R. Walton and his two companions took photos of what they believe are some of the boat's remains, including what may be its bow pulpit, resting about 15 feet below the surface.

In their report submitted to the Coast Guard, the sailors said waves likely twisted the Aegean in a clockwise direction, and that the jagged rocks off the island damaged the Aegean's port side.

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San Diego-based Petty Officer Henry Dunphy said the Coast Guard will use the information as evidence in its final report, although the photos and anecdotal information in the sailors' report are not conclusive.

In the days after the Aegean's demise, some speculated that a commercial freighter may have struck the 37-foot boat because of how extensive the damages were.

The continued speculation drove Walton to visit the Aegean's final GPS points.

"Based on what we saw, one can speculate the Aegean did hit Coronado Island at that location," Walton said.

Although some of the boat parts may have belonged to the Aegean, Walton cautioned that their findings are conjecture. More conclusive evidence can likely be found deeper, he said, adding that the denser parts wouldn't have traveled far.

Last week, the organization that governs the sport, U.S. Sailing, found that the Redondo Beach-based Aegean ran aground off North Coronado Island, about 15 miles south of San Diego Bay, in the April 28 incident that killed all four crew members. A more complete account is expected from the organization around the end of July.

The deaths were the first in the annual race's 65-year history.

Killed were skipper Theo Mavromatis, 49, of Redondo Beach; William Reed Johnson, 57, of Torrance; Kevin Rudolph, 53, of Manhattan Beach; and Joseph Lester Stewart, 64, of Bradenton, Fla.

Mavromatis' daughter, Anna Mavromati, who spells her Greek last name slightly differently than her late father, has questioned U.S. Sailing's findings, contending her father's GPS device were sometimes unreliable. In one instance, the device reported Mavromatis' location as far inland when he was actually on his docked boat, she said.

The Orange County Register first reported Walton's findings.

lauren.williams@latimes.com

Twitter: @lawilliams30

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