San Felipe, Mexico – A fishing boat carrying American tourists capsized and sank in an electrical storm off Mexico Baja California Peninsula, killing at least one American and leaving seven others missing, authorities said Monday.
The Mexican Navy said late Monday it will expand the search area for possible survivors after a meeting with the various rescue agencies, despite earlier reports that they were considering turning their efforts to recover bodies of nearly two days after the early Sunday morning accident.
Early Monday, 19 of the tourists and all 16 crew members taken up by the navy or other boats fishing for clinging to coolers, rings rescue and life jackets for more than 16 hours.
Mexican Navy Captain Benjamin Pineda Gomez said he had no name or details about the man who died. But he said the hot weather and water temperature, it is still possible that other missing are alive.
"A person who throws away can survive for several days. The sea is calm," he said.
The 115 feet (35 meters) boat Erik left San Felipe on the Sea of Cortez, a paradise for windsurfers and anglers, on Saturday for a six-day fishing trip. It sank about 60 miles (100 mil) south of the port of San Felipe around 2:30 PDT (5:30 am EDT, 0930 GMT) Sunday, the second day of a weeklong vacation fishing trip the men had organized a number of years each Independence Day holiday.
The boat was apparently hit by a storm and capsized less than 2 miles (3 km) from shore, but the Navy has expanded its search 60 miles (100 mil) deeper into the Gulf of Mexico later Monday after scouring the area with helicopters and planes, and finding nothing, said Pineda .
Reuters reported that there were 43 people aboard, including 27 American tourists. Senior manager Benny Minton, the U.S. Coast Guard, told msnbc.com that 27 U.S. citizens and 17 Mexicans were on board.
Minton said a few managed to swim to shore, then had to go for help in an isolated area about 87 miles south of San Felipe.
It confirmed the deaths and all the missing were U.S. citizens, said San Felipe port official Dora Winkler.
Mexican authorities said the survivors had been rescued by the Navy team and locals after fishing boat cook and two passengers were rescued by local fishermen, who had raised the alarm.
The boat was found about 87 miles south of San Felipe, a popular holiday and Fishing Resort located south of Mexicali.
Nobody knew about the accident until Sunday afternoon, when another fishing boat rescued three people.
Most of the 27 men from northern California and had made the journey before, eat gourmet dinners on board every night and come home with ice chests full of fish.
"I am beyond question," says Kristina Bronstein, who is engaged to missing tourist Mark Dorland of Twain Harte, California.
She heard about the accident Monday morning from a trip organizer's wife, who told her Dorland, 62, was one of the first to fall into the water. He was not wearing a life jacket.
The couple would marry next month.
Charles Gibson, a police officer with the Contra Costa Community College District, said people on the boat was brought by the other passengers and crew as it began to fall less than 2 miles (3 km) from shore.
Most "were in water over 16 hours," says Gibson, who went on the trip twice before. "Eventually, (we) rescued by local fishermen and soldiers."
"We hope the information is to teach our families that we are here and we survived," Gibson said.
Tourist Michael ng Belmont, Calif., were rescued by another fisherman when they swam ashore buoyed by a cooler. He was part of a group of 12 friends on the trip.
"I am relieved as I live, but I'm afraid of the people who have not been found yet," he said, adding that he plans to stay in San Felipe during the search and hope the others are still alive. "We were not far from the beach, so people were beached or stranded on some local islands."
January Ciabattari in Novato, Calif., said her husband, Richard, 62, managed to take on a life jacket before going into the water, but that he spent 15 hours at sea before being rescued.
She spoke to him briefly by phone and said that he mentioned something about a thunderstorm. He was invited to the annual trip at the last minute when another set.
Ciabaratti, like most men on the trip, drove to San Felipe about 220 miles (354 kilometers) south of the border city of Tijuana across from San Diego.
"They lost everything," she said, even car keys. "He is quite shaken."
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The rescued were in good condition with some abrasions after bobbing in the intense sun and warm Gulf waters. Photos released by the Mexican navy showed several sunburned fishermen in T-shirts and Bermudas are waiting to get on a bus.
They were taken to a hospital for checks, then to their hotel, said Pineda. A diabetic survivors were taken to a naval hospital in San Felipe, said state Civil Protection Director Alfredo Escobedo Ortiz.
Decreased rapidly, Minton said the boat "went down pretty fast" at about 2:30 PT (5:30 PM ET) Sunday.
But he said "everyone had enough time to put on life jackets and they were quite close to land."
"Some of the survivors were able to swim to an island or back to the mainland," Minton said. They then had to "go too long before they reached civilization," he added.
Local boat operators meet U.S. senior citizens and other tourists who flock to the region for cheap saltwater fishing. Loyalists boasts a sea teaming with Yellowtail, grouper and cabrilla.
According to an Internet advertisement, Erik, who's six-day charters from $ 995 per person, have been active in the Sea of Cortez since 1989, sleeping up to 42 guests.
"The boat is your floating hotel and restaurant. The food is excellent quality Mexican and American cuisine, all cooked fresh," it says.
According to Baja Sportfishing Inc. website has Erik been on the Gulf of California, known in Mexico Sea of Cortez, since 1989. It was built in Holland and was equipped with stabilizers to handle the turbulent North Sea.
California Secretary of State's website says Baja sportfishing business license has been suspended. It does not specify a reason or a date.
"We have worked with Mexican authorities Navy and U.S. Coast Guard in search and rescue," Baja Sportfishing Inc. said in a statement e-mailed to The Associated Press. "Right now our primary concern is to ensure that all accounted for."
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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Submited at Tuesday, July 5th, 2011 at 11:00 am on News by ethan
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