SD-Based USS Curts Assists In Cocaine Seizure

Operation Happened In Waters Near Colombia

Sailors aboard the San Diego-based guided missile frigate USS Curts and U.S. Coast Guard crews seized more than $9 million worth of cocaine from a vessel about 125 miles west of Colombia, it was announced Friday.

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"This was an excellent joint operation, showcasing the great teamwork between the Coast Guard and the Navy," said Lt. Cmdr. William Arritt, executive officer at Coast Guard Pacific Tactical Law Enforcement Team in San Diego. "Every case we work together sharpens our skills for the next operation."

A helicopter crew from the Alameda-based Coast Guard Cutter Morgenthau initially spotted the speedboat during a routine patrol on Aug. 14.

A Curts helicopter crew then sighted the 25-foot "go-fast" vessel in international waters as its crew began tossing off bales, which later tested positive for cocaine, according to Coast Guard officials.

A Coast Guard marksman fired warning shots, then fired into the fleeing vessel's engines to force it to a stop. Curts and Coast Guard crews recovered about 752 pounds of cocaine, worth an estimated street value of more than $9 million, Coast Guard officials said.

A Coast Guard boarding team detained three suspected smugglers.

USS Curts and its crew of 240 sailors left San Diego June 1 for a six-month deployment to conduct operations against drug traffickers and criminal organizations, according to the Pacific Fleet's public affairs office.

The Navy plans to decommission the 453-foot-long ship next year after nearly 30 years of service.

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