Lone survivor of capsized boat feels lucky, guilty

An angler who was the lone survivor of a boat accident that killed four of his friends said Monday he lived by swimming for 25 minutes in cold water to a rocky shore along the coast of Northern California.

Phillip Sanchez, 66, said his determination kept him alive.

“The water pushed me underneath and I thought I was drowning a couple times,” he said of swimming in the 59-degree water. “When I could stand up and lean against the rocks, I figured I would be all right.”

Three men and a woman died Saturday during the recreational crabbing expedition when a wave slammed into their 32-foot boat and capsized it near Bodega Bay, about 70 miles north of San Francisco.

“It happened in seconds and it was so powerful,” Sanchez said. “We were far enough off shore we never saw anything coming.”

Sanchez, who lives in Bodega Bay, severely cut his arm and sustained back bruises. He was taken by helicopter to a hospital, treated and released.

Sanchez had polio as an infant and does not have full use of his right leg. In addition, he previously injured his elbow during a fall from a truck. He said the issues did not impair the ability to swim that he learned growing up in California's Gold Country.

“I was actually on the swim team in high school and I did very well,” he said.

Sanchez said he feels lucky to be alive but is coping with survivor's guilt.

“I'm dealing with it just the best I can right now,” he said Monday.

The people killed were Jessie Daniel Langley, 79, and Sam Garcia, 86, both of Bodega Bay; and David Costa, 60, of Ripon. The fourth victim has not been identified.

Garcia and Costa were friends for 40 years.

“Dave Costa was a prince of a man, nicest guy you ever want to meet,” Sanchez said. “He had to have gotten hit by something when he came out of the boat. I never saw.”

Authorities said no one was wearing a life jacket.

The Coast Guard is investigating.

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Passengers ride the 14-Mission Muni bus on Friday, March 12, 2021. (Jordi Molina/Special to S.F. Examiner)
Transit officials fear Free Muni pilot could hurt already-strained service levels

San Francisco supervisors could be poised to approve legislation that would allocate… Continue reading

Visitors read a notice hanging on the Polk Street entrance to City Hall on Thursday, March 26, 2020, shortly after the building was closed. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
City Hall reopening to the public on June 7 after long closure due to COVID-19

San Francisco will reopen City Hall to the public on June 7… Continue reading

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) and running back Raheem Mostert (31) celebrate after Mostert scores his fourth rushing touchdown in the third quarter as the 49ers take on the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. on Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
49ers on prime-time TV five times in 2021

Usually a team that finishes in last place and won only six… Continue reading

Many famillies have supported keeping John F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park free of car traffic. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Fight over future of JFK Drive heats up

Shamann Walton compares accessibilty issues to segregation, likens street closure to ‘1950s South’

California Gov. Gavin Newsom, pictured in March, is unveiling a series of budget proposals this week. (Al Seib/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
Newsom’s school plan has billions for college savings accounts, after school programs and more

Hannah Wiley The Sacramento Bee California Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to send… Continue reading

Most Read