Nearly a year after the fateful sinking of a charter fishing vessel off the coast of Mexico, a relative of one of the victims has found the wreck at the bottom of the Sea of Cortez.
The wreckage of the Erik, a charter fishing boat that sank last year off the coast of Mexico, has been found. Courtesy photo
Divers reached the boat, the Erik, more than 120 feet below the water’s surface on Tuesday, according to Joe Jacinto, who has led the search effort for the past 11 months. Jacinto is the stepson of Al Mein, a 63-year-old Twain Harte man last seen aboard the ship as it sank.
The Erik sunk 75 miles south of San Felipe, Mexico over the Fourth of July weekend following a freak storm in the Gulf of California. In all, seven men died in the sinking, but only one body has yet been recovered.
The bodies of Mein and Mark Dorland, 62, also of Twain Harte, remain missing. Also missing are the bodies of Russell Bautisa, 60, of Penngrove, Shawn Chaddock, 49, of Petaluma, Brian Wong, 54, of Berkeley, Gene J. Leong, 67, of Dublin, and Don Lee, of San Ramon. The body of Leslie Yee, 65, of Ceres, was found on the Mexican coast shortly after the sinking.
Jacinto has spent much of his free time following up on leads and analyzing sea charts to pinpoint where the 115-foot vessel went down. He finally discovered the shipwreck on his fourth attempt by scanning a 52-square-mile section of the gulf with sonar. Divers then descended more than 120 feet to positively identify the Erik.
Jacinto said the divers were unable to recover any remains of the victims, some of whom are presumably still inside the boat. He said the wreck is covered in ropes, fishing nets and other debris that make recovery efforts too hazardous.
“It’s not an easy dive — there are a lot of spots to become entangled,” Jacinto said.
He said he has reported the wreck’s coordinates to authorities and the Mexican government has pledged to protect the site from salvage efforts.
He said family members of those lost will meet to decide if they want to try to recover the bodies or allow their loved ones to remain buried at sea.
He said the vessel is far too large to hoist to the surface with a crane, and divers will have to risk delving deep into the ship to search for possible remains.
The news that her husband’s likely resting place had been found provided some solace for Sharren Mein, who still lives in the home the two shared in Twain Harte. The family held a memorial service for Al Mein just two weeks ago.
“I just waited and waited to hold a memorial because the searches were still going on,” she said.
The family has set up a web page to share information and collect donations to help fund the recovery efforts at www.findourfathers.com.