Twenty-seven Americans and 17 other passengers and crew members were aboard a charter fishing boat which sank in the Sea of Cortez off the coast of Mexico early Sunday morning. The 115ft charter boat “Erik” sank about 60 miles south of the port of San Felipe at about 2:30 a.m. PDT (5:30 a.m. EDT; 0930 GMT) after encountering a flash storm. One American has been confirmed dead with seven other Americans still missing.
The Mexican navy rescued 19 tourists and all 16 crew members, who clung to coolers, rescue rings and life vests for hours before some were discovered by other fishing boats as they tried to swim to shore. “Initial reports from Mexico are that it was bad weather and possibly waves,” said Lt. Sean Groark, a spokesman for the US Coast Guard. “We’re focused on really trying to save people. The water temperature in the Sea of Cortez is very warm, the air temperature is really warm; that increases the chance of survival. It actually increases it a lot.”
Tourist Michael Ng of Belmont, California, was rescued with another fisherman as they swam to shore buoyed by a cooler. “I’m relieved I’m alive, but I’m scared for the people who haven’t been found yet,” he said. “We were not very far from shore, so people were beached or stranded on some local islands.”
The company that operates the boat, Baja Sportfishing Inc., said in an e-mail message: “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.”
Associated Press has reported that the accident occurred on the second day of a weeklong trip, which was an annual Fourth of July ritual for many of the people on the boat.