‘If I don’t make it back, I love you’: Lawsuit filed over Lopez Lake drowning

See the video taken on boat shortly before capsizing, killing San Diego man

This cell phone video was taken by San Diego resident Darryl Tyler Redd on June 22, 2017 at Lopez Lake minutes before his drowning death.
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This cell phone video was taken by San Diego resident Darryl Tyler Redd on June 22, 2017 at Lopez Lake minutes before his drowning death.

A San Diego man uneasy about sailing on a windy day at Lopez Lake sent one last message to his ex-wife via cellphone video before hopping aboard the vessel.

“If I don’t make it back, I love you,” he said.

The captain of the boat laughed and replied, “You’re going to make it back.”

But Darryl Tyler Redd didn’t make it back.

Redd, 47, died shortly after he took the video when the catamaran he was on capsized. He wasn’t wearing a life vest.

Now, his family is suing the boat captain, Bruce Stevenson of Frisco, Texas, for failing to ensure that his passengers were wearing floatation devices, as required by law.

Lawsuits only represent one side of the story. Stevenson has not filed any response in court and records did not yet show an attorney listed for him Thursday. Stevenson could not be reached for comment.

According to a Tribune report at the time, rescue crews responded to an emergency call about 2:20 p.m. June 22, 2017, after a boat flipped over with three people inside near the Cottonwood Cove area of Lopez Lake near Arroyo Grande.

Redd “was having a hard time” swimming and apparently drowned attempting to swim to shore, a Cal Fire spokesman said. The other two men aboard the boat made it safely to land.

The Sheriff’s Office dive team wasn’t able to locate Redd’s body until about 6:30 p.m.

In the wrongful death lawsuit filed in San Luis Obispo Superior Court on behalf of Redd’s estate on Wednesday, attorney Robert Waller wrote that Redd was a cook working for the nonprofit Kitchens for Good, which provides programs in workforce training, healthy food production and social enterprise, according to its website.

In June 2017, Redd was invited to attend Camp Hope Lopez Lake, an annual retreat organized by the nonprofit Alliance for Hope International, which supports victims of domestic violence. Redd was there as a volunteer cook.

Stevenson was also attending the retreat as a volunteer, the lawsuit states.

On June 22, Stevenson, Redd and a third volunteer went to take Stevenson’s 16-foot Hobie Getaway catamaran sailboat out on the water. The lawsuit states that even though personal floatation devices were widely available on shore where the catamaran was beached, neither Stevenson nor Redd donned one, according to the complaint, and Stevenson did not bring any on board.

The lawsuit claims Stevenson had taken the boat out three times prior that day, and each time he and passengers wore floatation devices.

But prior to the “fateful fourth sail,” Waller wrote, Redd expressed a “degree of concern” to Stevenson about his safety. In a cell phone video Redd shot just before going on the boat, Redd is heard telling his former wife, “Well, baby, this is the boat I’m about to go out on so wish me luck. Love you. If I don’t make it back, I love you.”

Stevenson is shown on the video in the blowing wind, and says jokingly: “You’re going to make it back.”

While sailing, Redd shot a second video in which he’s heard yelling, “We’re sailing, baby... King of the world!”

“Tragically, (Redd) did not make it back alive because he drowned when the Hobie catamaran foreseeably capsized and tossed all three people onboard into the water,” Waller wrote.

The lawsuit argues that Stevenson was required by several laws to provide and make sure all passengers aboard the boat were wearing floatation devices, which are provided free of charge by rangers at the lake. It further alleges that Steveson should have known that when sailing a Hobie catamaran that the windward pontoon hull will rise out of the water, causing the entire boat to heel over, including the trampoline area.

“Because Hobie sailboats are catamaran-design sailboats, another widely, if not universally, recognized aspect of sailing a Hobie catamaran is that the boats tip over and capsize,” the lawsuit reads.

The lawsuit alleges that winds were blowing at 20 knots that day, and that Lopez Lake is “widely recognized as a world-class wind surfing and sailboarding location where the winds are known to come up and increase significantly in velocity and speed during afternoon hours.”

Redd’s estate alleges general negligence and is seeking an unspecified economic damages as well as damages for pain and suffering, and legal costs.

A case management conference has been scheduled for April.

Matt Fountain: 781-7909, @mattfountain1

Former Tribune reporter Lucas Clark contributed to this article.

Air tankers, helicopters and ground crews battle the Camino Fire South of Lopez Lake in Arroyo Grande, California.