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Capsized boat survivors return home, 7 still missing

July 8, 2011 12:27:32 AM PDT
The search for seven men, missing off the Coast of Mexico, has brought no good news so far. Some of the survivors arrived back in the Bay Area Thursday night, safe after their boat capsized over the weekend.

The San Ramon family of one of the missing men is desperate for news. Don Lee's family gathered in their home for a conference call with the U.S. Coast Guard and officials with the U.S. Consulate in Mexico.

It was a chance to get the latest information on the search for Lee and six other men who are lost at sea off the Mexican coast. It was also an opportunity for the family to put on the pressure.

"It felt good for us because we finally got some visibility as to what's been going on down there, in the areas they've been searching, and what kind of obstacles they've been facing as far as what they're looking for. But for us, what we're still focusing on is trying to get divers down there," said Frederick Han, Lee's son-in-law.

It's been five days since 27 American tourists were tossed into the Sea of Cortez after stormy waters capsized their chartered fishing boat. One man died, but seven others are still missing.

On Thursday, a U.S. Coast Guard C-130 crew completed a 300-square-mile search grid, but neither they nor Mexican search teams found anything.

"The thing they're concerned about is dehydration. It basically comes down to survivability, rather than the conditions of the environment. So we're still optimistic about the environment being suitable for them," said Han.

Sixteen of the 19 remaining American survivors have crossed the Mexican border and began making their way home. Most are from Northern California. Bruce Marr, one of Lee's best friends, from Walnut Creek is among them.

While many of the survivors wanted to stay in Mexico and help any way they could, their physical conditions left them little choice.

"Because of their injuries, many of them are sick. They're sunburned and bitten by jelly fishes and what not, they need to come home," said Mandi Lee-Han, Lee's daughter.

Earlier on Thursday, the family told ABC7 Marr was driving back from Mexico to the Lee Family home to pick up his car and return Lee's car.

"I know Bruce doesn't want to do that because Bruce is one of my dad's very best friends," said Lee-Hahn.

"I know this is painful for him, because he has to come here to his best friend's house and pick up his car and drop off his best friend's car. So Bruce is coming in driving my mom's car back without my dad," said Lee-Hahn.

"The Coast Guard and Mexican Navy have picked about 1,500 miles in that general area to really concentrate their search," said Levi Read, U.S. Coast Guard. Beyond the air search, Lee's family working with Congresswoman Jackie Speier and St. Sen. Leland Yee to organize a dive team to search the sunken boat.

"If this can answer any of the questions that are out there, if this can bring some closure, I think the family just wants to know that they can move onto a grieving process," said Jonathan Carver, Lee's son-in-law.

ABC7 obtained photos taken by Dirk Sutton of San Ramon, who by chance met some of the fishermen at a San Felipe restaurant the night before they left on their tragic fishing trip. Donald Lee and Albert Mein are both seen in the photos.

"We were drinking, we were having a good time. I didn't realize until later that these photos here were actually of the group that had gone missing," said Sutton.

The Coast Guard C-130 will be back in the air on Friday. As for a dive team, one is scheduled to arrive on Sunday to search for the sunken boat.


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