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Coast Guard officer dies in drug-related boat accident

Earlier this month, a U.S. Coast Guard officer was killed in a boat accident that federal officials believe was related to illegal drug-smuggling operations between Mexico and the United States. As such, two Mexican nationals are now facing criminal charges in connection with the officer's death.

A federal criminal complaint filed in the fatal boat accident states that the series of events began when a Coast Guard cutter was dispatched to investigate a vessel driving without its lights on near the Channel Islands, which are about 180 miles northwest of San Diego. When the cutter came near the boat, several officers embarked on a 21-foot inflatable boat with a rigid hull in order to get closer to the vessel.

When the Coast Guard members flashed their boat's lights and ordered the vessel to stop, the driver of the boat gunned its engine, knocking two Coast Guard officers into the water. One of the remaining officers on the inflatable boat fired a gun at the vessel in an attempt to avoid a collision, but the two vessels crashed into one another.

The collision caused a 34-year-old Chief Petty Officer to be struck in the head with a propeller and suffer traumatic brain injuries, which would ultimately cause his death.

Coast Guard officials then followed the other vessel, both on water and in the air, for several hours until the boat's engine died. The two men aboard were arrested and charged with killing a federal officer while the officer was on duty.

It appears that incidents such as this one are on the rise. The officer's death marks the first time a law enforcement officer has been killed since the increase in drug smuggling by boat along the California coast.

Source: The Washington Times, "Coast Guardsman fired gun to avoid fatal boat crash," Elliot Spagat, Dec. 4, 2012

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