6 Bay Area men still missing after boat capsizes

6 Bay Area men still missing after boat capsizes
July 6, 2011 12:57:36 AM PDT
The U.S. Coast Guard is not giving-up on several Northern California men tossed overboard. It happened in a flash storm on Sunday and seven people total are still missing.

The hope is that the six missing men from Northern California and the surrounding area are still alive in the calm, warm water.

While the seas are calm, the weather conditions are harsh, making dehydration a key concern for the survival of the missing men. The temperature is in triple digits; the humidity is around 80 percent. And, as we know from those already rescued, many were in only underwear and have no sun protection.

"I heard people yelling and my brother got up and went down the hallway and heard somebody say 'Get out, get out!' This guy was yelling for help, 'Help me, help me!' And I looked and the water was already up to about his head," said survivor Gary Wong of San Francisco.

Wong provided a sense of the terror as 44 passengers and crew members jumped or got tossed into the sea as the fishing boat "Erik" capsized and sank.

"The passengers were waken by other passengers and crew members and alerted that the ship was sinking," said boat passenger Charles Gibson.

Gibson and Wong were among the lucky 37 who survived, managing to swim or stay afloat for as long as 17 hours. One passenger died. But the focus is now on the missing -- most of them friends or relatives -- Brian Wong, who was on board with his three brothers from San Francisco, Don Lee of San Ramon, Lee's friend, Al Mein, Russell Bautista, Gene Leong and Shawn Chaddock of Sonoma County.

Chaddock's brother, Darryl, remains hopeful that the missing will be found. Shawn has a wife, a son and daughter, and a grandchild due any day.

"That's the only thing you can have is positive and hope right now. There's no word yet, so as far as I'm concerned, he's going to be home soon. I'll have his Harley waxed up for him," said Darryl.

The Coast Guard sent a C-130 aircraft to Mexico this morning from McClellan Air Force Base. It has a range of 300 miles and can operate for eight hours at a time.

A San Diego area man, Mike Kalicki, rescued 11 of the survivors from his fishing boat Sunday evening thinks the possibility is still good to find the others. ABC7 spoke to Kalicki by phone near the Mexican border.

"We did all we could, and everybody down there did everything they could, physically, looking and looking, and spending days looking. I pray to God there's somebody left out there on an island," said Kalicki.

The reason why Kaliki is so optimistic is that the very winds that caused the boat to capsize pushed some of the survivors toward a group of islands, the Isla Encantadas. That's where some of them were found by rescuers.

Initial reports indicated the search might be called off last night, but instead is being expanded.

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

Families speak to ABC7 about Baja boat capsizing

So far the search has covered 1,400 miles.

Relatives are in the process of getting to Mexico to get to the search site. In San Ramon, Diane Lee's family is putting on the pressure and creating a mission to keep up the publicity on this case.

In the living room where Don Lee would gather his gear for fishing trips, his family has made a command center. They've created a blog and Facebook page called "Find Our Fathers."

May Lee talked to her husband just before he got on the boat. She said "he just wanted to make sure that we had a chance to speak with each other and he was going to be back on Friday."

The retired auto parts worker has been getting fishing buddies together every year for about 15 years, the past two times with the charter company in Baja.

"He just loved it so much that he wanted his friends to enjoy it as well also," said May.

This year, Lee went with about two dozen friends, including Albert Mein and he, too, is missing.

"This is something that was second nature to him," said Mandy Lee Hahn, Don's daughter, who says she had a bad feeling about her father's trip. "I did make a phone call to him on his way to Mexico and had to share with my husband that I did have a very weird feeling that something was going to happen, which is why I made the call."

"If you look at the area where the boat sank and where some of the survivors were rescued, it was fairly far down the coast and there is a lot of shoreline there that is actually not close to a major highway. So there's a major possibility they're on land," said Fred Hahn, Don's son in law.

In the water, there is a 96-hour window of survival. Hahn says it was her understanding that the group would not be sleeping on the boat during the first night. The one confirmed fatality is Leslie Yee of Ceres. He recently retired and this was his first trip with this group.

ABC7's Terry McSweeney contributed to this story.


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