Tourist from U.S. dies in Baja boat accident

In this image released by the Mexican Navy on Monday July 4, 2011, survivors of a capsized boat are taken away in a vehicle after being rescued by the Navy in the town of San Felipe, Mexico Monday July 4, 2011. A U.S. tourist died after a fishing boat capsized in an unexpected storm in the Gulf of California off the Baja California peninsula and of the 44 people on the boat, seven U.S. tourists remain missing along with one Mexican crew member, the Mexican Navy said. (AP Photo/SEMAR)
July 4, 2011 7:02:10 PM PDT
The search is on right now off Baja, California for seven missing people, all of whom may be from the Bay Area. They were fishing in the Gulf of California when a freak storm capsized their chartered boat. There were 44 people on that boat, one passenger is confirmed dead, and seven others are missing. Everybody else was rescued.

One of the missing eight passengers is Donald Lee who lives in San Ramon. Several of the cars parked in his cul-de-sac in San Ramon belong to people on the fishing boat that capsized.

The 115-foot sport fishing boat "The Erik" capsized about 1:45 a.m. on Sunday, but no one knew what had happened until some of the survivors swam about two miles to shore, then had a very long walk to the town of San Felipe.

Eight people are still missing; seven of them are passengers and one is a crew member. One is dead.

Michael Ng of Belmont, 43, clung onto an ice chest for flotation with two others. He later tried to swim to shore, but couldn't make it because of the strong currents. Like the others, he lost his cell phone, ID and clothes when the boat capsized, but he was able to call his wife, Ya Ng, from Mexico around 8 a.m.

"He had to do some swimming. They had life jackets on, and they actually did have time to put on life jackets, so that's a good thing and he's a strong swimmer," said Ya.

The storm that capsized the boat apparently generated stronger winds than expected. A Mexican official said the storm generated gusts, but no one knew they would be hurricane force. It's believed that one large swell lifted The Erik and then it was followed by a larger one that caused the vessel to capsize.

The U.S. Coast Guard launched a search and rescue helicopter from San Diego on Monday morning in hopes of spotting survivors in the water from 300 feet. Despite a day-long mission, no one was found.

The Erik has air conditioned cabins that accommodate two to six people and there's ship-board dining. The week-long fishing excursion costs $800 per person. For Ya, a short phone call this morning from Mexico was good news.

"He says, 'I'm fine. I'm OK. I just needed to give you word that things are rolling, and people are still missing so they're still looking for them,'" said Ya.

Adding to the somber mood is word coming out that the Mexican Navy and Army are preparing to switch from rescue mode to recovery mode. It has been 40 hours since the unaccounted for people went missing.

There's no word yet on when the survivors from the Bay Area will be returning home.

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