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Search continues for missing fishermen in Gulf of California

Mexican navy and U.S. Coast Guard vessels continued searching  Wednesday for seven U.S. sport fishermen who remained missing four days after their boat capsized in the Gulf of California.

The search focused on a vast area about 60 miles south of the Baja California fishing village of San Felipe, where the 105-foot boat, the Erik, sank after being thrashed by giant waves during a freak storm.

Thirty-five of the passengers and crew survived by swimming to shore or after being rescued by Mexican fisherman and navy boats. The body of 64-year-old Leslie K. Yee was found after it washed ashore on a desolate beach.

Amid fears that authorities were set to call off the search, family members of the survivors and missing established a website to pressure government officials to maintain the effort. The fishermen, most from the Bay Area and Central Valley, had gone on the same six-day fishing trip in previous years.

Rumors swirled that the captain of the 105-foot boat had been arrested by Mexican authorities. Some Mexican media have reported that the captain departed on the voyage despite being warned of inclement weather. But U.S. and Mexican officials said there had been no arrest.

Mexican officials said numerous boats, helicopters and planes have been looking for any signs of the men in the open sea. Searchers on land have also walked miles of beaches and rocky island coastlines.

“We’re searching a huge area,” said Mexican navy Capt. Benjamin Pineda Gomez. “We’re focusing on the main area where the accident took place as well as sites where the current could have taken them.”

“Our efforts are focused with the hopes that we can find people alive,” Gomez said.

Crews are also trying to pinpoint the location of the ship so divers can inspect it. There are concerns that some of the men didn’t have time to get off the vessel. It sank within minutes of being struck by waves, survivors said.

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-- Richard Marosi in San Diego 

 
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