HALFACRE, Billy Joe

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HALFACRE, Billy Joe (1928-1991)[SS#551-32-7475], drowned on February 17, 1991 at Anacapa Island, along with two others, when Halfacre's boat broke apart. Halfacre was 62.



In the News~

February 18, 1991 [LAT]: “3 drowned after waves split open boat's hull. Three men drowned off Anacapa Island Sunday after their fishing boat's wooden hull was split open by the force of 15-foot waves, authorities said. A U.S. Coast Guard rescue team plucked all six passengers from the chilly waters, but only three survived. The rescue was complicated by high winds and pitching seas that snapped towlines and nearly drove a Coast Guard boat into Anacapa's rocky shoreline. "All I could think of was my kids," said survivor Derrick E. Heller, who spent an hour in the turbulent waters of Santa Barbara Channel The Ventura County coroner's office identified two of the dead as Ronald Bailey, 50, and his nephew, Thomas Lee Moyd, 33, both of Oxnard. The third victim was the boat's owner, Bill Joe Halfacre, 62, of Culver City. The preliminary cause of death for all three men was listed as drowning, with severe hypothermia a contributing factor, said Deputy County Coroner Craig Stevens. The six-member party departed from the Channel Islands Harbor at 8:30 a.m. Sunday to fish for halibut off Anacapa Island, Heller said. The harbor in Oxnard was the home dock of the 30-foot boat, the Galliano. As they departed, swells were only two to three feet high, Heller said. But as they neared the halfway mark of the 12-mile voyage to their fishing grounds, the swells grew to 12 feet or higher. "It started really hammering us so we tried to head to the island." said Heller, the manager of a farming supply company. But the force of the boat smacking the water as it rode over the crest of each wave eventually ripped it to pieces, said survivor Ron Scott, 33, of Venice. About three miles off Anacapa he said, "the hull banged the water so hard it split open, and we were down in less than five minutes. "I've been on the boat a couple hundred times," added Scott, a garage-door builder. "I guess the old boy just died." Coast Guard Pety Officer Ray Manacio was in the radio room at the Channel Islands Harbor station when the distress call came in at 11:18 a.m. "The last transmission I heard was "We're going down! We're going down!" he said. Heller said everyone on board anticipated trouble and was wearing life jackets. But Moyd removed his for an unknown reason and held onto the boat as it capsized and began to sink, he said. Heller said the group urged Moyd to join them as they huddled together in the water, clutching a flotation mattress for about 40 minutes before it became waterlogged and lost buoyancy. All five men let go at the same time, Scott said. "It became too hard to keep together, and no one had the strength to hold hands." Heller said he and the others knew Bailey and Halfacre were having difficulty staying afloat, but "it got so choppy and we got so spread out, there was nothing we could do." It was about that time a Coast Guard helicopter from Los Angeles arrived, followed by the Coast Guard cutter Point Judith from Channel Islands harbor. "It was a beautiful sight seeing that big old boat coming over the waves", Scott said. Lt. Thomas A. Greger, the cutter's commander, said conditions in the channel were the roughest he had ever seen, with swells reaching 15 feet high. "When we got there, it had already sunk. There were only pieces floating around", Greger said. "It looked like it took a wave to the bow, the bow disintegrated and it went down." Rescue team members found all six men floating within 600 yards of each other, Greger said, but not without considerable difficulty. Initially, Greger launched a 13-foot inflatable craft from his 82-foot cutter to retrieve the victims. But the rescue boat lost its engine after retrieving Heller, Scott, and Halfacre, who apparently died in the water. Swift currents swept the small boat toward Anacapa's rocky coastline. Greger said that as the disabled boat drifted to within 20 yards of the rocks, the helicopter dropped a towline and pulled it 50 years farther out to sea before the tow line snapped. The cutter used a shot-line gun to get a second tow rope to the disabled boat, which was again approaching the rocks. "They couldn't even pull anymore because they were getting so tired," Greger said. The second line snapped as well. Meanwhile the helicopter pilot tried unsuccessfully to use the force of the wind from his spinning blades to push the boat out of harm's way. Eventually, a second Coast Guard rescue boat came alongside and towed it to calmer waters on the opposite side of the island. There, the two survivors were taken aboard the cutter along with Halfacre's body. Meanwhile, the cutter had retrieved the three other passengers. They were survivor Ernest Hanson and the bodies of Moyd and his uncle, Bailey, who showed signs of life but no pulse, Greger said. "The helo dropped me a paramedic and they jolted him", to try to restore his heartbeat, Greger said. Bailey was flown to St. John's Regional Medical Center in Oxnard where he was pronounced dead at 4:11 p.m.", Steven said. Stevens said Hanson, 45, of Port Hueneme, was flown by a second helicopter to St. John's where he was treated for mild hypothermia and released.”


October 31, 1991 [LAT]: “Relatives of a man who drowned off Anacapa Island in February have sued Ventura County, claiming that workers at a county-owned harbor allowed a defective boat to sail into stormy seas. The suit, filed Tuesday in Ventura County Superior Court, also accuses boat owner Billy Joe Halfacre of knowingly taking an unseaworthy craft into dangerous weather. Halfacre, 62, of Culver City drowned when his boat broke up in 12-foot waves February 16, as did Robert Bailey, 50, and Thomas Lee Moyd, 33, both of Oxnard. Three other men were rescued, including Ernest Hanson, who also seeks damages. The suit claims that Halfacre took his boat, the Galliano, out even though the Channel Islands Harbor Department had posted a notice on the boat saying it was unseaworthy…”