Skip to main content









Donation Heart Ribbon

Harbor Police Release Findings In Boat Accident Probe


No charges to be filed; Harbor Police say too many occupants on boat was a factor.

The San Diego Harbor Police Department finished its investigation into a March San Diego Bay boat accident that resulted in the deaths of two people.

According to information released by Harbor Police Wednesday, the incident on March 27, 2011, was caused by the number of people on the vessel, and the condition of the boat and its equipment.

Harbor Police said there were 10 people on the 26-foot boat when it capsized

Seven members of the Chen family were on board the sailboat as it cruised on the waters between Shelter and Harbor islands. When the boat capsized, Chao Chen and his son, Jun, drowned. The family's attorney, Dave Casey, told 10News in March the Chen family's grandmother and her daughter nearly drowned in the accident.

"They both almost drowned. It was just a matter of seconds," said Casey.

The following information was provided by Harbor Police:

The 26-foot vessel was a 1988 MacGregor model and was owned by a non-profit corporation that provided sailing excursions for people with special needs. On March 27, it set sail for a tour of San Diego Bay with two families on board. Some of the family members had special needs.

The boat was being operated by George Saidah, and while it was traveling near Buoy 20, which is located between Shelter Island and Harbor Island in San Diego Bay, it capsized. Everyone onboard the vessel ended up in the water.

Shortly afterward, nearby boaters and Harbor Police vessel units responded to conduct a rescue. Good Samaritans Ralph Whitworth, Michael Powell and Neal Hart, worked with the Harbor Police to remove passengers from the 55-degree water. Qin Chen, a passenger of the capsized vessel, was able to rescue her 9-year-old niece, who was trapped beneath the capsized boat. Qin also assisted with getting additional family members to safety.

Two of the boat’s passengers were unconscious and unresponsive to rescuers. As these two passengers were being transported to the Shelter Island launch ramp, they were given cardiopulmonary resuscitation. At the Shelter Island launch ramp, paramedics with the San Diego Fire Department provided advanced life support. Despite the resuscitative efforts, the two passengers, identified as Xingchao Chen, 73, and Jun Chen, 44, were pronounced dead. Due to the quick response of the civilian boaters and the Harbor Police, the eight other passengers were rescued and survived.

The Harbor Police strongly encourages everyone to wear a personal floatation device while onboard an operating vessel. Children under the age of 16 are required by law to wear them. Although adults are not required by law to wear them, the Harbor Police highly recommend they do, or at least have them readily available.

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or subscribe to our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.