Watch CBS News

Chicago Yacht Club To Release Report On Race To Mackinac Drowning

Chicago (CBS) -- It was a tragic accident that stunned Chicago's boating community. Experienced sailor Jon Santarelli fell off the Imedi during the Race to Mackinac, and an automatic inflatable life vest he was wearing -- a device that should have kept him from drowning -- didn't work.

RELATED Malfunctioning Inflatable Vest May Have Caused Sailor's Death

"When we heard what happened to Jon, I think everyone envisioned this could be me, or it could be a member of my crew," said Eric Frisvold, a recreational sailor.

He joined the chorus of boaters asking the brand of vest Santarelli was wearing, and why it didn't inflate.

A 60-page report has answers. It reveals what CBS 2 first reported last September that the vest was destroyed at the funeral home where Santarelli was cremated.

But the cartridge from the vest was recovered. That piece of evidence, along with interviews with the surviving crew, led investigators to surmise -- revealing for the first time -- that Santarelli was wearing was an "SSM-Barcelone, Spain and contains a Hammar MA1 inflator".

Frisvold read the report and interprets the findings

"The Coast Guard has said that they looked at the CO2 cartridge that was in that life vest," he said. "They can tell by the way it was damaged when it was incinerated that it still was full of CO2. So, in other words, it had not been activated."

The report concludes "the auto feature had not properly functioned." It goes on to say the life vest could have been 12 to 13 years old and whether the inflator in Santarelli's jacket "had ever been replaced is unknown."

But it should have been, according to a national safety expert who spoke via Skype, but chose not to be identified. He says manufacturers of the Hammar MA1 recommend the inflator be replaced every five years.

What the manufacturer in essence is saying is that in five years something inside of the mechanism could deteriorate.

There is much more in the report, including the moments leading up to Santarelli's death, and why his crew was unable to save him.

The report will be released to the public Monday morning.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.