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NEWS - Mexico extends search for missing US tourists

The Associated Press
Thursday, July 7, 2011 | 9:52 a.m.

Mexican authorities said Thursday they will continue searching for seven U.S. men missing since a tourist fishing boat capsized and sank off Mexico's coast, pushing the effort past the standard 96 hours.

Baja California state and Navy officials have decided to extend the rescue efforts "with the same intensity and personnel," despite the Mexican Navy's usual protocol to search for survivors for no more than four days, the state government said in a statement.

Rescuers were coordinating with officials in the state of Sonora across the Gulf of California in case tides have swept victims or survivors there.

Corey Bordenkecher of the U.S. Consulate in Tijuana, across from San Diego, said the United States has offered to send deep-water divers, but the offer has yet to be accepted by Mexican authorities.

U.S. Coast Guard and National Transportation Safety Board officials will assist Mexican authorities in their investigation, Bordenkecher said.

Sixteen of the 19 tourists who were rescued returned to the United States in their own vehicles on Thursday.

Three brothers, Gary, Craig and Glen Wong, stayed behind to await news of their brother Brian, who was missing.

A sudden storm struck early Sunday, capsizing the 105-foot (32-meter) vessel, the Erik. The crew and the fishermen clung to coolers, rescue rings and life vests for more than 16 hours.

The navy and other fishing boats pulled 19 fishermen and all 16 crew members from the water late Sunday. The vessel sank about 60 miles (100 kilometers) south of San Felipe.

Most of the 27 U.S. tourists on board the ship were Northern California men who traveled to the gulf for an annual Independence Day fishing trip.

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