Sailboat Offered Free Rides to Disabled

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The operator of the sailboat involved in Sunday's deadly accident on San Diego Bay is the founder of an organization that gives free sailing rides to people with developmental disabilities.

    Harbor Police investigators said George Saidah was operating the boat when it overturned in the water bewteen Harbor Island and Shelter Island around 5:12 p.m.

     Chao Chen, 73, and his son Jun Chen, 40, died in the accident. Eight others were injured.

    Ten people were aboard, including two children aged 9 and 11 and two young adults with special needs, according to Harbor Police. Seven of the victims were from the same family. 

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    Saidah is the founder of an Indiana based charity called the Heart of Sailing Foundation.

    Saidah has posted plenty of information about himself on social media websites. According to those sites, Saidah is a retired software entrepreneur, who in 2004, created the Heart of Sailing Foundation.

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    Dozens of people were there watching on as those first victims returned to land and within minutes hundreds of people, many of them with cameras in hand, were glued to the drama unfolding right before their eyes.

    On the non-profit's website, it's mission statement reads: "Heart of Sailing introduces sailing for free to children and adults with developmental disabilities, such as Autism and Down Syndrome, as a form of education and recreational therapy." According to it's website, Heart of Sailing operates regional programs in 19-different states.

    As Harbor Police examined the disabled sailboat on Monday afternoon, a banner with the company's logo could be seen on the disabled sailboat. Two of the injured from Sunday's accident were special needs passengers, according to Investigators.

    Saidah has been active on Social Media websites like Facebook and MySpace, posting many pictures. He says he's been a sailor for more than 40-years, and wanted to combine his love of the ocean with service to the community.

    According to his Linkedin page, Saidah says he's a native of Beirut and a citizen of France. He's sailed both single, dual and tri-hulled craft in waters around the world.

    Efforts to reach George Saidah, through e-mail and various social media sites have, so far, been unsuccessful

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