Mexico searches for 7 Americans missing in boat accident

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TIJUANA, Mexico (AP) — Mexican rescuers were scouring the Gulf of California for seven Americans whose fishing boat capsized two days ago, saying they were extending their search because the missing tourists still could be alive in the warm, calm waters.

One American has been confirmed dead in the accident, which came after a flash storm upended the boat before dawn Sunday, spilling dozens of tourists and crew members into the water. The identity of the dead man was not released.

By early Monday, 19 of the tourists and all 16 crew members had been picked up by the navy or other fishing boats after clinging to coolers, rescue rings and life vests for more than 16 hours.

Mexican navy, army and state officials met late Monday to discuss the search, and there were reports they would call off rescue efforts. But instead they announced the search would continue over an extended area.

Mexican navy Capt. Benjamin Pineda Gomez said that with the warm weather and water temperature in the Gulf of California it’s still possible the missing tourists are alive.

“A person who casts away can survive many days. That sea is calm,” he said.

The U.S. Coast Guard offered Mexico help in the search-and-rescue operation and said it will continue its operations.

The 115-foot vessel, the Erik, sank about 60 miles south of the port of San Felipe around 2:30 a.m. local time Sunday, the second day of a weeklong fishing trip the group had organized for several years each Independence Day holiday.

The boat capsized less than two miles from shore, but the navy extended its search 60 miles deeper into the gulf later Monday after searching the area by helicopter and airplane and finding nothing, Capt. Pineda said.

Most of the 27 men on the fishing excursion are from Northern California and had made the trip before.

“I’m beyond concerned,” said Kristina Bronstein, who is engaged to missing tourist Mark Dorland of Twain Harte, Calif.

She heard about the accident Monday morning from a trip organizer’s wife, who told her Mr. Dorland, 62, was one of the first people to fall into the water. He wasn’t wearing a life vest.

The couple are to be married next month.

Charles Gibson, a police officer with the Contra Costa Community College District, said people on the boat were awakened by other passengers and the crew as it began to sink.

Most “were in the water for over 16 hours,” said Officer Gibson, who had gone on the fishing trip twice before. “We hope that the information is getting to our families that we are here and that we survived.”

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