Families Hold Out Hope for Missing Fishermen

Search continues for fishermen aboard a capsized boat

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The search is still on for seven U.S. tourists aboard a boat that capsized Sunday in the Gulf of California.

    On Tuesday, survivors of the accident anxiously awaited word as the Mexican navy and the U.S. Coast Guard expanded their search in the Gulf of California, holding out hope that the missing were able to survive in the gulf's balmy waters. 

    "Every hour he's still missing, hope gets hit with reality," said Gary Wong, whose younger brother, Brian, 54, of Berkeley, is among the missing tourists.

    Mark Dorland, 62, was reportedly one of the first to go overboard and didn't have a life vest. He is set to get married in a month.

    Mystery Surrounds Capsized Boat

    [DGO] Mystery  Surrounds Capsized Boat
    The boat, named Erik, plunged into the Gulf of California early Monday night after a flash storm upended the boat, killing one U.S. man and leaving seven others missing.

    Russell Bautista, 60, of Penngrove, Calif., is also missing. The retired Pacific Bell worker and avid fisherman who often took others fishing or crabbing.

    "He's taught a lot of people to fish," wife Joelle Bautista said. "Our son went out with him a lot."

    The boat, which is named the Erik, plunged into the Gulf of California in the middle of the night after a flash storm upended their boat, killing one U.S. man and leaving seven others missing. Authorities are still searching for the missing fishermen.

    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.

    A fisherman who's been chartering with Baja Sportfishing for over a decade says he's never had any qualms.

    "I can't really say this is an unsafe operation. I've done it many times. I've felt comfortable on it. The weather is unpredictable, but I'm still in shock over hearing about the sinking of the boat," said George Ruble, a former passenger of Erik.

    The company didn't respond to an interview request. It said in an announcement posted on its website Monday afternoon that all trips have been canceled.

    However, the company is participating in rescue efforts.

    "We have been working with Mexican Navy authorities and the U.S. Coast Guard in the search and rescue," Baja Sportfishing Inc. said in a brief statement e-mailed to The Associated Press. "Right now our main concern is making sure that everyone is accounted for."

    Rescue efforts are still underway, as the warm water may be the saving grace of the missing fishermen.

    Three helicopters from the navy, the state of Baja California and the city of Mexicali were searching Tuesday morning, Baja California state Civil Protection Director Alfredo Escobedo Ortiz told the Associated Press.

    Escobedo said authorities are considering requesting deep-water divers from Mexico and the U.S. who can search the wreckage, which is in water more than 200 feet (65 meters) deep.

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

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