REDONDO BEACH (CBS) — A last-minute decision to not race with his four friends is credited with saving the life of competitive sailor Michael Patton.
Three of Patton’s four friends, competing in a yacht race, were killed and their bodies recovered Saturday. A fourth boater is still missing.
Patton spoke with CBS2 and KCAL9 reporter Amanda Burden and can’t stop thinking “what if.”
“Everyone’s been saying I’m the luckiest guy in the world — and I don’t feel that way,” he says, somberly.
Patton was supposed to be the Aegean’s fifth crew member when it set sail Friday for a 125-mile race from Newport Beach to Ensenada, Mexico.
At the 11th hour, Patton backed out because his mother was sick.
But not before wishing his comrades good luck. “I wished them off and said, ‘Go win.’ And that’s the last I spoke to them.”
Officials believe the Aegean likely collided with a much larger vessel sometime late Friday or early Saturday … it’s possible the larger craft didn’t even know it hit the Aegean.
Patton finds the whole scenario hard to fathom. “I know those waters. I know where they were. I’ve been there. I know there’s traffic there, but it’s not that heavy. This is just horrendous.”
Patton showed Burton a picture the crew took a few years ago after winning a first place trophy for the same race.
Friends lost — William Johnson of Torrance, Joseph Stewart of Bradenton, Florida, Kevin Rudolph and the yacht’s owner and captain, Theo Mavromatis.
Patton said Mavromatis and Stewart were brother-in-laws. All the men were experienced sailors and, more importantly, says Patton they were all great friends.
“I miss those guys you know. And it’s just horrendous. It should not have happened. It’s beyond me what happened.”
Patton says he’ll always wonder if his presence on the boat could have made a difference. “I can’t help but think my presence might have made that boat faster or slower by ten seconds of it not happening.”