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1 dead, 1 missing in Va. boat capsizing
Friday - 5/13/2011, 5:32pm EDT
NORFOLK, Va. (AP) - A sailboat carrying 10 people affiliated with NASA's Langley Research Center capsized during a late night cruise on the James River in Virginia, leaving one man dead and another missing while the other eight survived after clinging for hours to floating debris in frigid waters.
Virginia Marine Resources spokesman John Bull said 23-year-old Tyler Lorenzi died Friday. Lorenzi's Facebook page says he lived in Hampton, graduated from Northwestern University in 2010 and is originally from Mill Valley, Calif.
Lorenzi was an associate research engineer for the National Institute of Aerospace, which does research in conjunction with NASA's Langley Research Center.
Lorenzi and the others aboard the boat _ all in their 20s _ were at a party in Newport News on Thursday night when they decided to board the 22-foot-sailboat, Bull said. The other passengers on board included three graduate students from N.C. State and three from the University of Maryland doing research at the institute, said Robert Lindberg, president and executive director of the National Institute of Aerospace.
The other three on board were NASA contractors, he said.
The eight who were brought ashore were treated and released at Riverside Regional Medical Center.
"These are young people who are very talented who are recommended from around the country," Lindberg said. "He will be sorely missed."
It wasn't immediately clear why the boat capsized. None of the six men and four women was wearing a life vest when the boat capsized, although floatation devices were on board, Bull said.
Five of the passengers managed to swim to shore after spending more than four hours in the water and drifting about three miles, Bull said. They managed to stay afloat by clinging onto various passing debris such as a boat fender, which protects boats from banging into docks.
"It must've been a harrowing experience _ clutching a floating gas can," he said.
Bull said emergency responders pulled the other four out of the water shortly after the first group knocked on the door of a nearby home in the Smithfield area and called authorities. About the same time, a tug boat captain ran into the capsized sailboat on the James River near where the Navy mothballs old ships known as the Ghost Fleet.
Authorities are impounding the sailboat as part of the investigation, Bull said. He said one of the unanswered questions is whether the boat was large enough to safely have 10 people on board.
Coast Guard Lt. Mike Patterson said it wasn't immediately clear who the boat was registered to. He said that the water temperature was 57 degrees Friday morning and that overnight conditions showed there was a light breezes with waves probably at a foot or less.
Bull said emergency responders were able to respond quickly because of a previously scheduled training exercise in the area.
(Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)