1 Dead, 7 Still Missing After Chartered Fishing Boat Capsizes Off Baja Peninsula

One person dead after a chartered fishing boat sank off the coast of Mexico.

ByABC News
July 4, 2011, 6:44 AM

July 4, 2011— -- Mexican officials are looking into calling off the search and rescue for survivors of a chartered fishing boat that capsized off Mexico's Baja California peninsula and focus on recovery efforts.

One U.S. man has died and seven others are still missing -- six Americans and one Mexican crew member.

The boat was carrying 44 people.

Nineteen of the tourists, all men mostly from the San Francisco Bay Area in northern California, were found alive, as were 16 Mexican crew members, said Capt. Benjamin Pineda Gomez in the Baja California port of San Felipe.

All those who were rescued were taken to a clinic, then to their hotel in San Felipe, and said to be in "good condition" with minor scrapes and sunburn. One diabetic survivor was taken to a naval hospital in San Felipe, said civil protection director Alfredo Escobedo Ortiz.

Ortiz told the Associated Press that navy, army and state officials reviewed their strategy as divers prepared to look for bodies.

The U.S. tourist who died has not been identified.

Michael Ng a survivor from Belmont, California, told the Associated Press the boat was less than two miles from shore when it capsized. He and other fishermen stayed afloat with the help of a cooler. They were swimming toward shore when he, a fellow survivor and the boat's cook were rescued by another fishing boat.

In a press release, the Mexican navy said aid was possible because the cook, who after being rescued by a fisherman, was able to alert authorities that the boat had gone down. The rescue mission is still ongoing.

"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."

The 115-foot-long boat, a catamaran called the Erik operated by the tourism company Baja Fishing, was carrying 16 crew and 27 American fishermen on what was supposed to be a week-long trip when it was caught in a thunderstorm and capsized around 2:30 a.m. Sunday. Pineda said two giant waves hit the boat, causing it to tip over.

"When the vessel sank it was close enough to shore that some people were able to swim to shore," said U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Pamela Boehland. "Other people were picked up by good Samaritan vessels that were in the area. Others were rescued by the Mexican Navy."

The boat, which had embarked from San Felipe, capsized about 60 miles south of the port city, Baja California Civil Protection Director Alfredo Escobedo Ortiz told The Associated Press.

No one knew of the accident until Sunday afternoon, when another fishing boat rescued three people. Other reports said that at least one passenger swam ashore to get help.

U.S. Consulate General in Tijuana, Mexico released a statement saying their staff had met with all surviving Americans at a hotel in San Felipe and they were working with Mexican officials to provide return transportation back to the U.S. for the American survivors.

"We have been in touch with families of some but not all of the missing Americans," the statement said.

According to an Internet advertisement, the Erik has been operating in the Sea of Cortez since 1989 and can sleep up to 42 guests.

San Felipe is a popular vacation spot known for its scuba diving and sport fishing.

ABC News' Joseph Simonetti, Marisa Bramwell and The Associated Press contributed to this report.