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Man Watched Four Friends Drown After Fishing Boat Sank

February 8, 1987 GMT

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) _ Tears rolled down the cheeks of Jim Sims as he told how he watched friends drown in a charter boat accident, after which one man’s body was found and nine others were presumed buried at sea.

″I knew if I stopped, I would die,″ the 29-year-old Riverside tile worker recalled during interviews at his home Friday. He credited Tim York, 25, of Huntington Beach, with helping him.

″I’ve never been much of a swimmer,″ he said. ″I’m overweight. I smoke. Tim’s encouragement is what kept me going.″

York was one of the last of his companions to drown, he said. He heard York screaming, apparently stricken with cramps, and tried to reach him but couldn’t.

Twelve people were aboard the 53-foot Fish-n-Fool when it sank Thursday off the Baja California coastal town of Cabo San Quintin, about 150 miles south- southwest of San Diego.

Only Sims and a crew member survived. The Coast Guard found one body Friday and suspended its search for the others, leaving them presumed dead.

Sims said he spent nearly eight hours in the cold water clinging to a 2- foot-by-2-foot piece of wood before Mexican fishermen heard his shouts and helped him ashore.

Sims said that when a huge wave capsized the San Diego-based boat, he was thrown into the sea and began swimming with York; George Stinson, 40, of Orange; Rusty Paxton, 40, of Riverside; and Ken Baldwin, 65, of Huntington Beach.

Each of the men grabbed a piece of floating wreckage from the vessel and began to swim toward San Martin Island, about five miles away.

But they were quickly separated by the strong current.

″The first one to go was Ken Baldwin,″ Sims recalled. ″He started falling behind. After about an hour, he just disappeared.

″The next one was Rusty. He said he couldn’t make it. I tried to encourage him, to keep him going, but when I turned around he was gone.″

After another hour or so, Sims said, he could see only Stinson and York. Both were clinging to an ice chest.

″We were kicking hard, trying to get ashore,″ Sims said. ″Suddenly a current caught us.

″Tim knew the ice chest couldn’t hold them both any longer. So he left the chest for George. And he swam over to me. He told me not to give up ... to keep going ... and he got out in front.″


Then Sims heard York’s screams.

″Tim gave his life for George,″ Sims said. But George also slipped from sight.

He eventually spotted lights on the island and yelled to the Mexican fishermen who saved him. ″If they hadn’t come out, I wouldn’t have made it,″ Sims said. ″I owe them my life, and I don’t even know their names.″

Cathy Compton, 38, of San Diego, a crew member, was the other survivor. She was rescued by a Coast Guard helicopter crew about 10 miles south of Cabo San Quintin late Thursday as she clung to four life rafts lashed together.

Only Stinson’s body was recovered.

Others missing and presumed dead were identified as Max Pfost, 52, Kent Springman, no age available, both of Riverside; Huntingon Beach resident Steve Rhoads, 25; Terry Milan, 39, of Norco; skipper Gary LaMont, 45, of Spring Valley; and deck hand Scott Milliron, 20, of Lakeside.

Stan Simants, an employee of H&M Sportfishing, said the Fish-n-Fool was owned by Gary Lamont of Spring Valley, who was aboard when the wave struck. The other passengers were believed to be friends of his.