Searchers hold out hope for missing boaters

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – The search continues for seven people who disappeared when a San Diego-based chartered ship capsized in the Sea of Cortez, killing one person.

The Erik was sold-out for a four-night trip out of San Felipe, 200 miles southeast of San Diego when it was struck by two rogue waves about 2:30 a.m. Sunday and sank near Isla San Luis in Baja California.

The vessel was reported to have carried 27 tourists, most of whom are believed to have come from Northern California, and 16 or 17 crew members. One person was confirmed drowned and more than a half-dozen were missing but 37 — including all the crew members — were rescued or swam ashore, said a Mexican Navy spokesman at San Felipe.

On Monday, the U.S. Coast Guard sent a helicopter from San Diego to help search for survivors. Today, a C-130 Hercules airplane from Sacramento was expected to be sent instead, said Petty Officer 2nd Class Henry Dunphy, a USCG spokesman based in San Diego.

The C-130 is capable of carrying more people, which will translate into more eyes looking for the seven missing tourists, Dunphy said.

Dunphy said fighting off hypothermia was one of the biggest challenges for people missing at sea and with water temperatures in the 80s on Monday, it was possible the missing people could still be alive.

The Erik is a “mother ship” fitted with supplies, sleeping berths and a galley for a fleet of “panga” boats that take fishermen to spots in the northern end of the Sea of Cortez. It is operated by Baja Sportfishing Inc., which said on its website today that “Due to events occurring at this moment, all further trips are canceled.”

In a statement, the San Diego-based company wrote, “We are devastated by this horrible tragedy. Every effort is being made to assist the authorities in the search. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the families.”

The dead passenger was not immediately identified but in a statement late Monday, the Mexican Navy listed the names of eight missing passengers and said the fatality was probably among them, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported. They were Don Lee, Russell Bautista, Mark Dorland, Leslie Yee, Brian Wong, Al Mein, Gene J. Leong and Shawn Chaddock.

Categories: KUSI