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LOS ANGELES - Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Terrell Horne holds his son during a Christmas cruise onboard the Cutter Halibut, his home unit, in this undated photograph. Chief Horne, a Boatswain Mate, was killed in the early morning of Dec. 2, 2012, from injuries sustained during law enforcement operations near Santa Cruz Island, Calif. The Coast Guard Cutter Halibut was investigating a panga-type vessel suspected of illicit activities. When the Halibut's small boat approached with its blue law enforcement light energized, the suspect vessel, identified to be a profile Mexican style panga, maneuvered at a high rate of speed directly towards the Coast Guard small boat and struck it before fleeing the scene. U.S. Coast Guard photograph by Lt. Stewart Sibert

MARINA DEL REY - U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano expressed sadness today at the death of a U.S. Coast Guard petty officer who died when the Marina del Rey-based vessel he was aboard was rammed by a panga-type boat being piloted without lights near the Channel Islands.

Executive Petty Officer Terrell Horne, 34, of Redondo Beach was pronounced dead early Sunday morning at Port Hueneme, where he and another officer were taken after the collision, which caused both of them to be thrown into the water, according to Adam Eggers of the Coast Guard. The other USCG member -- who was not identified -- had non-life-threatening injuries.

Both were assigned to the USCG Cutter Halibut, based at Marina del Rey.

Napolitano said she was "deeply saddened" to learn of Horne's death. She said Horne and his fellow crew members "were engaged in an at-sea interdiction when they came under threat by a small vessel that rammed their small boat."

"This tragedy reminds us of the dangers our men and women in uniform face every day, and the great risks they willingly take, as they protect our nation," she said.

Eggers said the vessel that struck the Halibut was a "Mexican-style panga" traveling at a "high rate of speed." Customs and Border Patrol and Coast Guard ships were able to chase the panga after the apparent ramming and arrested two people, according to USCG Petty Officer Seth Johnson.

Johnson said the Halibut was tracking a smuggling boat off Santa Cruz Island, one of a cluster of three Channel Islands sitting off the Ventura County coast, about 30 miles west of Malibu around 1 a.m. Sunday.

A Coast Guard patrol plane had spotted the panga and another boat as it headed toward the Channel Islands without lights. The Halibut was sent to Santa Cruz Island, and had arrested two people from one boat.

The Halibut lowered a small chase boat into the water, and the small federal craft activated its blue lights and siren. At that point, the panga's captain changed direction and drove into the small boat, apparently deliberately, Johnson said.

Horne and the other Coast Guard member were thrown into the water and were immediately picked up by another federal boat.

Horne suffered head injuries and was taken roughly 15 to 20 miles to the nearest dock, at Port Hueneme.

The collision was still under investigation.