Mexico, U.S. search for seven missing off Baja coast
SAN FELIPE, Mexico – Mexico’s Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard searched for seven shipwrecked American vacationers on Tuesday, two days after their boat was caught in a fearsome storm off the Baja California peninsula.
The Mexican Navy said it was leading the search in the Sea of Cortez for any survivors or bodies of the missing passengers who were out fishing in a boat that capsized, broke in two and sunk on Sunday.
The U.S. Coast Guard said it was assisting with a C-130 cargo plane flying over the area.
The 115-foot (35-meter) chartered fishing boat dubbed the Erik was carrying 43 people when it capsized early on Sunday. The Mexican Navy, fishermen and other vessels rescued 35 of the passengers and crew members, saved by a crew member who swam for hours to reach the coast and call for help.
Mexican authorities identified the body of one passenger, and the missing seven are feared dead.
All of the missing individuals are from California, according to port official Dora Winkler in San Felipe, Mexico.
The Erik encountered the storm and overturned on its first night at sea, Mexican officials said. The stricken vessel was found 87 miles south of San Felipe, Mexico, a popular holiday and fishing resort south of Mexicali.
Crew member Rodrigo Romero recalled in San Felipe how it took him 17 hours to swim to shore and call for help, swimming with his life jacket and occasionally losing consciousness as he pulled and kicked through the waves.
«Nobody wanted me to separate from the group but I knew I had to reach someone with a telephone or a radio,» he said.
«Thank God I found an American who was camping on the beach. As I lay exhausted on the beach, he offered me help, he had a phone and a radio,» Romero told Reuters, his arms and legs badly cut and his face burned from the sun.
Tourist guide Marco Avila, floating in the water for hours with another eight crew members and Americans, said they were saved by 12 bottles of soda they found floating in a white polystyrene ice box among the wreckage.
«We shared them about and took little sips. Then we broke the ice box into pieces and used it to swim,» he said.