SoCal Reps Brother and Girlfriend Die in Boating Accident


The bodies of the brother of two Southern California congresswomen and his girlfriend were recovered from the Pacific just off the coast of Los Angeles on Thursday. Henry Sanchez was the brother of Democratic Reps. Loretta and Linda Sanchez. Sanchez and his girlfriend, Penny Avila, had been missing since leaving in Sanchez’s 26-foot motorboat for Catalina Island on October 2nd.

According to the Coast Guard, it appears that the motorboat and a supply barge being towed by a tug boat collided and that it was simply a “very tragic accident.” One of the divers who found the wreckage five miles off the coast at a depth of 120 said the barge may have run over the top of the motorboat since the cabin was knocked completely off. Both Sanchez and Avila were found below deck, but investigators are unsure where the two were during the collision.

The tugboat and supply barge were returning to Los Angeles after a supply run to Catalina on the night of the collision. The 128-foot barge was being towed over a thousand feet behind the tugboat. The tugboat captain claims he was unaware there was a collision, and authorities have said it would be difficult to know that something had happened due to the distance between the tugboat and the barge. The weather was clear on October 2nd, but it was dark and there was no moon. The Coast Guard has determined that both the tugboat and barge were correctly lighted.

The family of Sanchez and Avila say both were experienced boaters. Authorities will perform toxicology tests on the bodies, and are still investigating who had right of way in the busy harbor.