Chief Charles Gibson of the Contra Costa Community College District is an award winning speaker and college professor.
His signature presentation is “How to Kill Complacency before Complacency Kills You,” a story of how he almost lost his life while several of his friends did perish.
On a warm July 3rd, in 2011, 26 Bay Area fishermen and friends, including Gibson, who is police chief of the Contra Costa Community College district, drove to San Felipe Mexico, for their annual week of fishing and relaxation.
Their plan was sail for five days aboard “The Eric” a 115-foot-live-aboard ship.
The first day out went well. As the ship sailed towards its fishing destination, most of the fishermen settled in for the evening.
About midnight, a powerful and unexpected storm woke everyone onboard. A large wave struck the ship, causing it to capsize and sink.
There was no time for a “May Day” call. Some people never to get out of their cabins and, going down with the ship.
Those who managed to off the ship in time wound up stranded in shark-infested waters off the coast of Baja California for over 16 hours.
By the time the survivors were rescued, eight fishermen had died.
This horrific ordeal was covered in the international news and chronicled on the A&E television show “I survived.”
Almost a year later, in March 2012, the sunken Eric was located. The remains of three missing fisherman were recovered.
The ships’ captain and the harbormaster were prosecuted for manslaughter because they had prior knowledge of the dangerous weather conditions but ignored the warnings.
Chief Gibson, Jerry Garcia, Gary Hansen and Rich Ciabattori are four of the surviving fisherman from the Bay Area.
They will return to San Felipe on July 13 to release a wreath in the Sea of Cortez in memory of their friends who did not come home.
They will fish for five days while there. But most importantly they will bring home the cremated remains of their close friend and comrade Don Lee.
“It will be a privilege and a honor for us to bring Don’s remains home to his beautiful wife and loving family,” said Chief Gibson. “It is important to finish what we started”.