This undated photo provided by the U.S. Coast Guard shows Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Terrell Horne III, stationed on the Cutter Halibut. Horne III, a Boatswain Mate, was killed in the early morning of Sunday Dec. 2, 2012, from injuries sustained during law enforcement operations near Santa Cruz Island, Calif. Horne, of Redondo Beach, was pronounced dead after being brought ashore at the Port of Hueneme, Ventura County chief deputy medical examiner James Baroni said. He suffered a traumatic head injury in the crash before dawn, Coast Guard officials said. (AP Photo/U.S. Coast Guard/ Lt. Stewart Sibert)
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MARINA DEL REY, California —
A suspected smuggling vessel rammed a U.S. Coast Guard chase boat during a counter-drug operation off the California coast, killing one Coast Guardsman and injuring another, authorities said.
Chief Petty Officer Terrell Horne III, 34, was pronounced dead Sunday after he was brought ashore at Port Hueneme, said James Baroni, Ventura County chief deputy medical examiner.
Horne suffered a traumatic head injury in the crash near the Channel Islands west of Malibu, Coast Guard officials said.
The second man was treated for minor injuries. His name wasn't released.
Horne and others were aboard a small inflatable boat deployed from the Marina del Rey-based Coast Guard cutter Halibut.
The Halibut's commanding officer, Lt. Stewart Sibert, told a press conference Monday that he and his crew were devastated by the loss of a man he called the best shipmate he had ever known.
Sibert credited Horne with helping to rescue people on a struggling sailboat off of the Channel Islands just a few months ago.
"It was pitch black, the winds were howling, the seas were building and everything was getting worse," Sibert said.
Horne "came up with a plan ... he made it so that we got everybody out alive," and his experience and professionalism saved three lives, Sibert said.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Monday that Horne and fellow crewmembers of the Halibut "were engaged in an at-sea interdiction when they came under threat by a small vessel that rammed their small boat."
A Coast Guard maritime patrol aircraft spotted a panga — an open, low-sided fishing boat favored by Mexican smugglers — before dawn and the cutter was sent to intercept it, officials said.
The cutter deployed a smaller inflatable chase boat, but as that vessel approached the panga with its blue light flashing, the panga veered toward it at high speed and struck it before fleeing.
Horne and another crewman were thrown into the water.
Another Coast Guard vessel stopped the fleeing panga and detained two suspects.
Asked whether any drugs were found, Coast Guard spokesman Adam Eggers said he could not immediately comment.
Smuggling boats carrying drugs or illegal immigrants from Mexico have been ranging farther and farther north along the California coast.
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