U.S. Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Terrell Horne III, of Redondo Beach, died near Santa Cruz Island in Santa Barbara County from a traumatic head injury he suffered when his head hit a propeller after he was thrown from his boat by the impact, according to a complaint filed by federal prosecutors.
Horne, 34, lived in Patterson as a boy from 1987 to 1995, when he left for Florida, where he spent the remainder of his high school years, said Patterson resident John Kuipers, Horne’s former stepfather. Kuipers was married to Horne’s mother for 12 years, including the time when Horne lived in Patterson.
“He joined the Coast Guard because he wanted to make a difference in life, and that’s what he ended up doing,” Kuipers said Monday, Dec. 3.
Horne, a boatswain’s mate, is survived by his expectant wife and two children, Kuipers said.
Horne and another officer, who had minor injuries, were both thrown from the boat and picked up by the Coast Guard cutter Halibut, the coastal patrol vessel on which Horne served as second-in-command, according to Coast Guard Petty Officer Seth Johnson and a news release produced by the Coast Guard.
Federal prosecutors have charged both Manuel Beltran-Higuera and Jose Meija-Leyva with Horne’s death. Meija-Leyva told investigators he was the pilot of the boat, prosecutors said.
Horne and other members of the Halibut crew began pursuing the panga— a nearly 30-foot-long open-bowed fishing vessel — after a Coast Guard airplane crew spotted the boat moving through the water with no lights on, according to federal prosecutors.
At about 1:20 a.m. Sunday, the cutter sent out a rigid-hull inflatable boat, with Horne and three other officers on board, and it approached the panga with its blue law-enforcement lights on, according to federal prosecutors. The panga sped directly toward the Coast Guard boat, which tried to move out of the way, and struck the inflatable boat before fleeing, federal prosecutors said.
The Halibut crew immediately retrieved Horne and the other officer and their boat and attempted first aid on Horne, according to a release from the Coast Guard. At Port Hueneme, where emergency medical service units met the cutter at the pier, Horne was pronounced dead.
Coast Guard customs and border patrol teams caught up with the fleeing panga about 20 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border and arrested two people who they found on board, according to federal prosecutors.
The San Pedro-based Los Angeles Border Enforcement Security Task Force, a multi-agency group that investigates the smuggling of narcotics and of people who enter the U.S. illegally into the United States, is pursuing the case.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of our shipmate,” said Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Robert J. Papp in a prepared statement. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends, and his shipmates aboard Coast Guard cutter Halibut. We are focused on supporting them during this very difficult time.
“Our fallen shipmate stood the watch on the front lines protecting our nation, and we are all indebted to him for his service and sacrifice.”
In his prepared statement, Papp also commended the Coast Guard and customs and border protection units who continued the pursuit and apprehended the suspects.
During nearly 14 years of active duty, Horne served at Coast Guard stations in Emerald Isle, N.C.; Humboldt Bay on the Northern California coast; and Charleston, S.C., according to Papp. He also sailed aboard the cutter Dallas, which was stationed in Charleston until it was transferred to the Philippines this year.
Horne received a Coast Guard Commendation Medal in Emerald Isle for his leadership in 63 search-and-rescue cases, which saved 38 lives, according to a Los Angeles Times report.
He was involved in a January operation in which the Halibut stopped two boats filled with 2,000 pounds of marijuana that were navigating at midnight with no lights, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Horne’s past assignments also included patrolling the coast of Somalia for pirates, according to Kuipers, who described Horne as a “good man.”
“He really was a down-to-earth guy that everybody liked,” Kuipers said. “He never got in trouble. ... He cared about people. That showed in his work.”
Kevin Scoles, a former classmate and friend of Horne, recalled this week that Horne got along with everyone in high school, regardless of their personal style or interests.
“Terrell was such a great guy,” Scoles stated in an email. “He never judged anyone and had a great heart from the get-go. … It’s a shame that more people aren’t that way. He definitely leaves a great legacy with the people that knew him.”
Jennifer Hamm, a member of Horne’s class who is now a coach and teacher at Patterson High School, said she recalled Horne being quiet in class, but kind and approachable.
“He was just an awesome guy,” she said. “It’s just tragic that something like this would happen.”
Coast Guard officials are establishing a memorial fund, Kuipers said Monday. In the meantime, condolences can be sent to the United States Coast Guard Office of Law Enforcement, 2100 Second St. SW, Washington, DC 20593.
Reflections also can be posted on the Officer Down Memorial Page posted online.
• Contact Jonathan Partridge at 892-6187 or firstname.lastname@example.org.