A U.S. Coast Guardsman, who was once stationed in Eastern Carolina, was killed off the California coast, allegedly by drug smugglers.

Chief Petty Officer Terrell Horne lll, who used to be stationed at Emerald isle in Carteret County, died Sunday, the Coast Guard said.

The 34-year-old was sent out to investigate a fishing vessel, believed to be filled with drugs, near the Channel Islands, west of Los Angeles. But that boat rammed Horne's boat, sending him and another Coast Guardsman overboard, investigators said. Both were taken to a hospital, where Horne was pronounced dead.  According to medical officials, he died from being hit on the head by a propeller.
    
Horne's colleagues said the 14-year veteran of the Coast Guard will be sorely missed.

"I had the privilege of serving with him for a year and a half. He was one of the strongest individuals I've ever known," said Lt. Stewart Sibert of the U.S. Coast Guard. "I was blessed to have Terrell as my second in command and words can't express the respect and admiration that I have for him. He was my friend, he was my confidant, he was the glue that held my crew together...and he was the experienced chief that I looked to time and time again."

The U.S. Coast Guard said they later caught up with the vessel that allegedly rammed Horne's boat. Two Mexican nationals onboard were arrested, and were charged in Horne's death. Investigators were not saying whether they found drugs on the suspects' boat.

Horne is the first American law enforcement officer to die off the California coast in several years. He is survived by his expectant wife and a young daughter.

"Our fallen shipmate stood the watch on the front lines protecting our nation, and we are all indebted to him for his service and sacrifice," said Admiral Robert J. Papp, 24th Commandant of the Coast Guard.