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Search resumes for 7 missing after boat sinks off Baja California

July 5, 2011 |  9:15 am

Search resumes for 7 missing after boat sinks off Baja California

Search and rescue operations resumed Tuesday morning for seven people still missing after a fishing boat sank Sunday off Baja California.

The sport fishing charter boat Erik was carrying 27 U.S. tourists, mostly from Northern California, and 16 Mexican crew members when it capsized in rough waters in the Sea of Cortez.

PHOTOS: Fishing boat capsizes off Baja California

The Mexican navy on Tuesday morning continued searching waters around the accident site by plane, helicopter, boat and from vehicles on the shore, a spokeswoman said. The U.S. Coast Guard was assisting with with a C-130 aircraft preparing to take off from Sacramento, said Petty Officer Pamela Boehland.

Thirty-five of the 43 people aboard the ship swam ashore or were rescued by local fishing boats, according to Mexican authorities. Local police found one man’s body, but he was not identified. Survivors swam for miles, floated for hours in life jackets or clung to ice chests before being rescued or making it to land.

Survivor David Levine told the San Francisco Chronicle that when the boat toppled, passengers scrambled to the deck to help each other.

“Everybody jumped into the water,” he said, “a lot of people went in with no life vest.”

The wife of missing Bay Area man Russell Bautista told the Chronicle she was told “he did grab a life jacket" before the boat sank. "But from what I heard,” Joelle Bautista said, “it was hard to hold on to them if you were running. It's very hard to wait this through."

The search was continuing, authorities said, because people could still be alive in the warm weather and water temperatures.

In a statement, Mexican authorities listed the names of eight missing passengers, which they said probably included the man reported dead. They are Bautista, Don Lee, Mark Dorland, Leslie Yee, Brian Wong, Al Mein, Gene J. Leong and Shawn Chaddock.

The Coast Guard on Monday flew an H-60 Jayhawk helicopter over more than 42 miles of water in the Sea of Cortez. The C-130 aircraft replacing it Tuesday was going to fly a more extensive search pattern over an expanded area of water, Boehland said.


Coast Guard joins search after Mexican vessel sinks

Survivors swam for miles in fatal boat accident in Mexico

California residents rescued in fatal boat accident in Mexico

-- Tony Barboza

Photo: A Mexican naval boat looks for U.S. tourists in San Felipe, Mexico, on Monday. Credit: Francisco Vega / AFP/Getty Images