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Survivors swam for miles in fatal boat accident in Mexico

July 4, 2011 |  8:55 pm

Mexican fishing boat sinks
Survivors of a fishing boat that sunk off Baja California swam for hours before they were rescued from the water or made it to shore, officials and a family member said Monday afternoon.

Rescue operations were still underway Monday afternoon as helicopters and boats searched for eight people missing after the 105-foot-long sport fishing boat capsized during a storm in the Sea of Cortez about 60 miles south of the port of San Felipe, officials said. One person was reported dead.

View Capsized vessel in a larger map

The Erik was carrying 27 U.S. tourists, most of them from Northern California, and 17 Mexican crew members when it sank early Sunday morning.

Richard Ciabattari, 62, was afloat for 12 hours before making it to shore, said his wife, Jan Askew of Novato. He swam eight miles and, unlike several others on the boat, had a life jacket on, she said.


A part-time usher for the San Francisco Giants, Ciabattari was not supposed to go on the trip. But he went for free at the last minute after another passenger dropped out, according to his wife.
“These kinds of guys, they do anything to go fishing,” Askew told The Times. “I just feel like we’re very lucky. I’m glad he’s a good fisherman and I’m glad he’s a good swimmer.”

Mexican Navy boat and helicopter crews, aided by a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter, were still searching for survivors Monday evening.

The Coast Guard said its H-60 Jayhawk helicopter had flown over more than 42 miles of water at an altitude of about 300 feet. The skies were overcast and the water temperature was around 84 degrees.


California residents rescued in fatal boat accident in Mexico 

--David Zahniser and Robert J. Lopez 

Photo: Ambulance prepares to transport a survivor. Credit: Mexican Navy. Map: Les Dunseith/Los Angeles Times.