By John Mitchell, Insidevc

The parents, children, siblings and friends of a 45-year-old Ventura man who loved the ocean are mourning his death in a boating accident.

Charles E. “Chuck” Niell Jr. died July 16 while taking a nap in his bunk aboard the 41-foot sailboat Claudia off the coast near La Jolla. The cause of death was carbon monoxide poisoning, a San Diego coroner’s report said.

The accident occurred as Niell and his companion, Denise Kaur, 44, were on a leisurely cruise from Ventura to Ensenada.

According to Charles Niell’s mother, Claudia Niell, and his sister, Denise Castillo, Charles and Kaur discovered a leak in an exhaust hose after they left Ventura. Charles spoke on a cell phone to a mechanic who walked him through the process of plugging the leak. The plan was to have a mechanic in La Jolla check the exhaust.

Kaur told them she sailed the boat for a couple of hours while Charles napped. As they approached La Jolla, she tried to wake him several times before she realized he wasn’t breathing.

News reports in the San Diego area said rescue personnel were dispatched to the boat, which was still offshore, when witnesses said a woman on a nearby boat was screaming for help.

Claudia Niell said authorities told Kaur that 18 percent to 20 percent of boating deaths are caused by carbon monoxide poisoning. They said carbon monoxide is a heavy chemical and theorized some had settled at the bottom of the boat during the initial leak, she said.

Police conducted an investigation to make sure there was no foul play involved, and the coroner did not release Charles’ body to his family until Tuesday.

Claudia Niell said the badly shaken Kaur was taken to a local hospital, where she was monitored for carbon monoxide poisoning.