It is with great sadness that the crew of the Condor Express passes along the news that Captain Fred Benko died peacefully in his sleep early this morning. His wife Hiroko was at his side. Fred was the founder, owner and operator of the Condor Express, and was a pioneer in the realm of local sportfishing and later, whale watching.
Fred was born on July 6, 1938 and hailed from Ohio. He had worked as a pharmaceutical salesman for Pfizer, who eventually moved Fred to new expanded territories in California.
Old timers may remember the fishing vessels Hornet and Sea Hawk, or the bait boat Scout that worked out of Sea Landing, all of which were originally owned by Fred Benko. Fred spent late 1978 and early 1979 building the original Condor in Willmington, California and it was launched in May, 1979. The Condor was a sportfishing vessel that worked the Channel Islands, and eventually took up whale watching after seismic testing by oil companies stopped and whales returned to the area in great abundance. Fred was an innovator, known for devloping the art of shallow water rockfishing and for his passion, whale watching in the Santa Barbara Channel.
In March, 2002, the Condor Express was launched and was dedicated to whale watching and party cruises. The Condor Express revolutionized whale watching by prividing a very stable, high speed viewing platform.
Fred was an inspiration to all of us and will be greatly missed. Information about services and a celebration of Fred’s life will be forthcoming.
On behalf of the crew,
Condor Express Odd Jobs