Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 April 2014

Horror as tourists' boat capsizes

Survivors of a capsized boat sit inside a helicopter after being rescued by the Mexican navy (AP)

American tourists on a July 4 fishing trip were plunged into the Gulf of California in the middle of the night after a flash storm upended their boat, killing at least one man and leaving seven others missing.

The Mexican navy said on Tuesday it would extend the search area for survivors after meeting rescue agencies, despite earlier reports that it was considering turning its efforts to recovering bodies, nearly two days after the accident.

The navy rescued 19 tourists and all 16 crew members, who clung to coolers, rescue rings and life vests for hours before some were discovered by other fishing boats as they tried to swim to shore.

Navy captain Benjamin Pineda Gomez said he had no name or details about the man who died, but he said with the warm weather and water temperature, it was still possible the others were alive. He said: "A person who casts away can survive many days. That sea is calm."

Divers were preparing to search the sunken wreckage for bodies, said state civil protection director Alfredo Escobedo Ortiz.

The 115ft Erik sank about 60 miles south of the port of San Felipe early on Monday, the second day of a week-long fishing trip the men had organised for several years each Independence Day holiday.

Most of the 27 were from northern California and had made the trip before, eating gourmet dinners on board every night and coming home with ice chests full of fish.

Charles Gibson, a police officer with the Contra Costa Community College District, said people on the boat were awoken by other passengers and the crew as it began to sink less than two miles from shore.

Tourist Michael Ng of Belmont, California, was rescued with another fisherman as they swam to shore buoyed by a cooler. He was part of a group of 12 friends on the trip.

"I'm relieved I'm alive, but I'm scared for the people who haven't been found yet," he said. "We were not very far from shore, so people were beached or stranded on some local islands."

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