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2 Arroyo Grande men found dead in missing boat outside of Santa Barbara

The two men who were found dead on a vessel about 20 miles southwest of the Santa Barbara Harbor on Sunday were friends from Arroyo Grande, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office said Wednesday.

Gary Bishop, 53, and Christopher Avila, 49, were transporting Bishop’s boat from the Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard to Port San Luis, the Sheriff’s Office said. The last time family members were in contact with the men was on Saturday at about 6:30 p.m.

At about 8 a.m. Sunday, a concerned family member contacted the U.S. Coast Guard and asked them to be on the lookout for a white, 34-foot Sea Ray Sundancer boat with two men on board.

“Family members were concerned that the men were not reachable and had not called to update their progress,” the Sheriff’s Office said.

The Coast Guard began searching for the vessel, and a Coast Guard air crew located the boat about 20 miles southwest of the Santa Barbara Harbor just before 8 p.m. Sunday.

Both men on board were dead, the Sheriff’s Office said. The Coast Guard towed the boat to the Santa Barbara Harbor, where the Sheriff’s Office took custody of the boat and the bodies.

The Coroner’s Bureau is investigating the circumstances surrounding the men’s deaths, the Sheriff’s Office said.

The cause and manner of each death is still under investigation, but the Sheriff’s Office said there’s no evidence that the men died by suicide or that foul play was involved.

Next of kin have been notified for both men, the Sheriff’s Office said.

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Gabby Ferreira is a breaking news and general assignment reporter at The Tribune in San Luis Obispo. A native of Houston, Texas, she was a reporter in Tucson, Arizona; Indianapolis, Indiana; and Palm Springs, California, before moving to San Luis Obispo County in 2016.
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