Officer Horne served as a Chief Boatswain’s Mate (BMC).
About 11:30 pm Saturday, December 1, 2012, a U.S. Coast Guard C-130 aircraft on routine patrol spotted a recreational boat near Smugglers Cove, Santa Cruz Island, California. They contacted the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Halibut that was already operating in the region.The Halibut found and boarded the recreational boat. Two individuals suspected of smuggling drugs were onboard. They also found several extra containers of fuel, suspected to be used in refueling drug or illegal alien smuggling operations.
The C-130 then reported spotting about a 30 foot panga boat (an outboard powered opened bowed fishing boat) at Smugglers Cove with two men on board and without navigation lights.
The Halibut carries a 21 foot Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB). The photo below comes from the Halibut’s June 2011 newsletter, the Breakwater.
The Halibut launched the 7 meter RIB with four men on board, including BMC Terrell Horne to locate and intercept the panga boat in the dark.
About 1:20 am Sunday morning December 2nd, the USCG crew on the RIB found the panga boat laying stationary about 200 yards off the east side of Santa Cruz. From about 20 yards away, the USCG crew on the RIB flipped on their flashing lights and started yelling “Stop, police, put your hands up” in English and in Spanish.
The panga boat hit the throttle and quickly attempted to ram the USCG RIB. The USCG RIB operator tried to steer clear while another officer commenced firing his service revolver at the panga boat. The panga boat rammed the font left corner of the USCG RIB, Terrell Horne and one other crew member were ejected.
BMC Terrell Horne was stuck in the head by a propeller. The other officer in the water received cuts to his knee. In the pandemonium that ensued, the panga boat fled the scene. The two crew members still on board the RIB pulled their two injured crew members from the water and began medical care. They took them to the Halibut which then headed for Port Hueneme. The Port was notified and activated its new joint operations center.
Paramedics met the Halibut at the Port Hueneme pier and Officer Horne was declared dead at 2:21 am.
The Ventura County California Medical Examiner’s Office said they would be conducting a autopsy on Terrell Horne. While all accounts show him being struck by a propeller in the head, the accounts are not specific as to him being struck by the propeller of the USCG RIB or by the panga boat prop.
The Chase ContinuesBack at the scene, the C-130 overhead kept the panga boat in visual contact and was relieved by a USCG H-60 helicopter which assumed the pursuit.
The Coast Guard upped the ante and put a Response Boat Medium (RB-M) in the hunt. RB-M is a 45 foot vessel with a lot more firepower then the small 21 foot RIB, plus its much easier on the crew (small RIBs ride pretty rough in the open ocean).
Coast Guard Response Boat Medium #45643 caught up with the panga boat about 5:05 am Sunday. The chopper overhead shined their lights on the panga boat and the RB-M pulled alongside with its flashing lights on, Officers called for them to surrender, but the panga boat fled again. The RB-M kept up the chase till the paga boat had a mechanical failure. Again the RBM pulled alongside and ordered them to surrender. The panga boat fired up again and started to flee. The RBM tried to block their exit, the panga boat operator kept trying to restart the engine, a USCG officer started pepper spraying the two men on the panga boat, the boat operator put up a struggle, but eventually both men on board were detained. They were found to have illegally entered the U.S. from Mexico.
The captain of the panga boat said he was taking gasoline to some friends north of Los Angeles. The other man onboard said he had been approached in Baja California, Mexico and offered $3,000 to carry gasoline to a panga boat off the California coast.
A U.S. Magistrate Judge ordered the two men to be held without bail. They are scheduled to enter a plea at their December 21 arraignment.
About Officer Terrell Horne III
Those who worked with Officer Horne describe him as loyal, level headed, as a big brother, as a mentor, and as one who could remain calm in stressful situations.
He joined the Coast Guard at 18 and left behind a young son and an expecting wife.
Several Military RIB Propeller Accidents Quickly Come to Mind
The death of Officer Horne brings some other military RIB propeller incidents to mind.
- On 9 December 2002, Australian Army Special Air Services was conducting a mock raid on an oil rig at Bass Straight. Four RIBS, each carrying 6 divers, were running a staggered formation with about 3 meters between the vessels. One coxwain lost control, slipped and fell, he veered left and struck a diver. The 33 year old soldier killed was from Perth. The supervising officer said “propeller guards should have been used.”
- On Sunday 25 March 2007, Ronald Gill, 26, a USCG Petty Officer based out of Anchorage Alaska was onboard a 25 foot Defender class, twin outboard, rapid response boat assigned to patrol passenger ferry routes near Seattle, Washington. A reservist called up to active duty, this was his last day of scheduled operations in Seattle. Officer Gill fell from the deck in Puget Sound, was struck in the head by the propeller, rushed to a ferry terminal, taken by ambulance to Harborview Medical Center and pronounced dead.
- On 15 July 2007, A. McLean, 19, a UK lifeboat crewman based at Kinghorn was on a 7.3 meter RIB conducting training exercises. When doing some fast turns in calm weather, McLean was ejected. He was stuck in the head three times by the propeller. Two of those strikes pierced his helmet. They quickly recovered him from the water, took him to the beach and had some confusion in where to meet the ambulance. The ambulance was unable to get to their location, so he was taken by a USCG vehicle to the hospital, then on to another hospital. The accident was investigated by MAIB and the RNLI.
- On 14 February 2010, an Australian Defense Force Academy RIB was on Lake Burrinjuck in NSW Australia. After a day of training, Cadets took the 6.3 meter RIB out for some joyriding on the lake. Several cadets fell from the vessel at one time or another during high speed turns, one of them was was seriously struck by the propeller. The injured cadet was the son of a high ranking government official. An NSW Transport Roads and Maritime Services investigation found the RIB should have had a propeller guard for its intended uses.
Media Coverage of the Terrell Horne Propeller Strike
We would like to thank the many media outlets and offices that covered the events surrounding the propeller strike of Officer Terrell Horne. We relied upon several of their accounts in assembling this report. Among them are:
- Los Angeles Times
- LA Observed
- NBC4 Southern California
- Press-Telegram – Long Beach CA
- Soundings Trade Only
- Ventura County Star
- Easy Reader News
- U.S. Coast Guard
- The Breakwall – the newsletter for the Halibut