7 Recovering well after boat capsizes in Tomales Bay


We spoke with several people with years of experience on Tomales Bay and Dillon Beach. They say they were warning everyone that yesterday the conditions were not right for boating.

"It was dangerous yesterday. They had no business being out there," said witness Michael Lawson.

Lawson has spent more than 50 years in these waters and says that Sunday's successful rescue of seven people at Dillon Beach, could have had a very different ending.

"If I were a betting man, I would've figured half of them at least would have died," said Lawson.

Five people, including a 3-year-old boy, were holding on to the hull of their boat for dear life. In video captured by the Sonoma County Sheriff's helicopter rescue team, you see rescuers performing a long line rescue where they drop down from the helicopter and lift people to safety. It was in the middle of this rescue that first responders would learn that two additional children, ages 6 and 8, were trapped inside the boat's cabin.

"Two hours inside that hull, think about it," said Lawson.

"It was definitely a dangerous situation," said Sonoma County Sheriff's Sgt. Ed Hoener.

It was dangerous because the condition of the children trapped inside was unknown. Crews had to tow the boat to the end of Tamales Bay, where the water was quieter. Once there, fire crews cut into the boat's hull pulling the two remaining children to safety and to the applause of onlookers.

It was there that Sgt. Hoener and first responders made a disturbing discovery.

"There were seven people onboard and there's no evidence that any of them were using life jackets of any type," said Hoener.

Officials are looking into the experience of those operating the boat and why no one on board had been wearing a life jacket as required by law.

Pilot Paul Bradley and Deputy Sheriff Debbie Little were able to pull everyone from the boat and land in only nine minutes. They have more than two decades of experience between them, which was put to the test, when every second counts.

"Very lucky. We could be talking about a different type of tragedy," said Hoener.

Everyone is fine. We reached out to the family in Elk Grove, but the father declined to be interviewed.

Copyright © 2023 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.