Ship capsizes off California coast, drowning at least one

08:29, July 05, 2011      

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At least one person was confirmed drowned and eight others missing after a chartered ship capsized in the Sea of Cortez, off the Californian coast, authorities said on Monday.

The vessel, called the Erik, sank near Isla San Luis, Baja California, with 44 people aboard around 2:30 a.m. Sunday, according to the Coast Guard.

The ship, packed with Americans on a Fourth of July fishing trip, was sold-out for a four-night trip out of San Felipe, 300 miles (480 kilometers) southeast of Los Angeles, said the Coast Guard.

The Coast Guard sent a helicopter from San Diego to help search for survivors. So far, 37 people have been rescued at sea or swam ashore, said a Mexican Navy spokesman at San Felipe. Most passengers swam to shore, and some were rescued by other boats. The Mexican Navy searched throughout the day with surface and air crews, and officers called the U.S. Coast Guard Sunday evening for helicopter assistance, Coast Guard officials said.

"They will coordinate with the Mexican Navy crews already on scene and search for several hours, before flying back to San Diego for fuel," said Petty Officer 2d. Class Henry Dunphy, in an interview with Fox 5 San Diego. The ship capsized after being struck by two rogue waves, according to the Coast Guard.

The Erik is a "mother ship" with supplies, sleeping berths and a galley for a fleet of "panga" boats that take fishermen to spots in the northern end of the Sea of Cortez.

Water temperatures there are warm, but Dunphy said survival chances depend on variables like life jackets, age of the person and other factors.

Source: Xinhua
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