- Sheriff's Office: Five set off on first day of crabbing season and are hit by a "rogue wave"
- Four are found unresponsive in the frigid water; the fifth clings to a rocky outcropping
- That 66-year-old man is rescued by helicopter with minor scrapes and cuts
- No one aboard the capsized boat was wearing a life vest
A crabbing expedition turned tragic Saturday morning when a boat capsized off Northern California, killing four people, a Sheriff's Office spokeswoman said. A fifth person was able to cling to a rock and was rescued,
The sole survivor, 66-year-old Phillip Sanchez, told authorities that he and the others had set off around 8:30 a.m. (11:30 a.m. ET) Saturday on their 32-foot fishing boat, according to a Sonoma County Sheriff's Office news release.
Other boats were out on the water for the opening day of crabbing season, sheriff's spokeswoman Sgt. Cecile Focha said.
Yet conditions weren't ideal, with seas at 9 feet and winds of 17.5 knots (20 mph). Sanchez's private boat was hit and flipped over by what Focha described as a "rogue wave" in Bodega Bay, about 60 miles north of San Francisco.
"The boat pitched, and they were all thrown from the boat," the spokeswoman said.
Responding authorities from the Coast Guard and Sheriff's Office found four people unresponsive in the water about 40 yards offshore.
One was pronounced dead there, while Coast Guard and Bodega Bay fire boats brought the three others to a nearby Coast Guard station. Once there, medical personnel performed CPR in the ambulance. None of the three -- Jessie Daniel Langley, 79; Samuel Garcia, 86; and David Costa, 60 -- survived.
Langley and Garcia were both from Bodega Bay. Costa was from Ripon, California. The Sheriff's Office said it wasn't disclosing the identity of the fourth victim until the next of kin had been informed.
While Focha didn't know exactly how long the men had been in the water, she said conditions were perilous with rough seas and water temperatures around 59 degrees Fahrenheit.
Sanchez, meanwhile, had swum and clung to an isolated, barnacle-filled outcropping known as Bodega or Seal Rock.
As Focha explained, boats can't pull up to the rock, so a Sonoma County Sheriff's helicopter was brought in and a deputy at the end of a 100-foot line pulled Sanchez up to safety.
Dressed in a T-shirt and jeans, Sanchez was taken to a Santa Rosa hospital because he was "very cold" and for treatment of scrapes and abrasions, presumably from the sharp rocks, the Sheriff's Office said.
Authorities do not believe that alcohol or drugs played any part in the incident.
While life vests were onboard the vessel, no one was wearing them when the boat capsized.
Focha said, "Life vests are what they are. It's so tragic."