Public and private searches have been called off for Loverboy bassist Scott Smith, 45, presumed drowned after being swept overboard by a giant wave that washed over his 37-foot sailboat off the coast of San Francisco late Thursday afternoon.
At press time, Loverboy guitarist Paul Dean, drummer Matt Frenette and keyboardist Doug Johnson were in seclusion in Vancouver after visiting with Smith's family at his home in Maple Ridge, British Columbia.
Loverboy formed in 1979 and went on to sell millions of pop-rock albums that spawned major hits in the '80s, including "Turn Me Loose" [RealAudio], with its trademark extended bass intro supplied by Smith, "The Kid Is Hot Tonite," "Workin' for the Weekend" [RealAudio], "Lovin' Every Minute of It," and "Heaven in Your Eyes," from the "Top Gun" soundtrack. They disbanded for a time in the '90s, but were inspired to regroup and record a new album when a Sony Classics greatest-hits package was certified gold in 1998. They released a new album, VI, and took on a touring schedule that ranged from 60 to 90 concerts a year in the United States.
The band had wrapped up a number of dates in the fall and had planned a few more for December.
Smith, his fiancée, Yvonne Mayotte, and friend Bill Ellis were sailing the vessel, the Sea Major, from Vancouver to a marina south of Los Angeles, where he and Mayotte planned to be based for the winter. They also planned to spend time in Mexico.
The accident occurred just south of the Golden Gate Bridge, two to three miles offshore.
Ellis told the Vancouver Province that Smith was at the wheel and he and Mayotte were below deck when a wave hit, sending the boat over on its side. Ellis and Mayotte were able to make their way to the deck quickly, but found Smith gone, along with the ship's wheel, torn off by the force of the wave.
Smith was wearing two sweaters and a pair of track pants; he was not wearing a life jacket. Ellis told the paper that he immediately began to throw flotation materials over the side, hoping Smith would be able to grab onto something. He put in a distress call and began trying to turn the boat around, but subsequently failed to find any trace of Smith. A helicopter was on the scene within 20 minutes, followed closely by two Coast Guard vessels, but they could not spot the bassist.
The Coast Guard called off its hunt Friday afternoon, but a private search continued until dusk on Saturday.
According to an area Coast Guard report, the seas were heavy, the winds were calm and there was slight fog in the area on the day of the accident. The water temperature was estimated to be around 50 degrees. Marine guidelines state that the average expected survival time under such conditions is two to three hours.
Smith was an avid and experienced sailor, having owned boats similar to the Sea Major since the band hit big in the early 1980s. He had owned the vessel for about 18 months.
The boat was docked in the San Francisco Bay Area while Smith returned to Vancouver to perform at a benefit concert November 25, which raised $62,500 Canadian for a local Diabetes Foundation. Smith had flown back to San Francisco and the trio had set sail just two hours before the accident.
The band's photographer, Dee Lippingwell, said Smith, a quiet but humorous man dedicated to his two teenage sons, was in great spirits at the benefit concert and was looking forward to the trip south and cementing his relationship with Mayotte, 31, his girlfriend of eight months.
Details of a memorial service for the musician, to be held in Vancouver, will be announced soon, according to Loverboy manager Lou Blair.
"We're trying to regroup everybody," Blair said. "We've got people traveling still. We have two entities to consider here before making any decisions, the family as well as Loverboy."
Blair declined to comment on the future of the band, but he did confirm that a live album, completed with producer Al Quaglieri last summer and scheduled for release between March and May on the Sony/Legacy label, would likely go ahead as planned. The album will include remastered performances from 1981 to 1986.