US: Crew negligent in sinking off Calif. coast

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - The U.S. Coast Guard says the owner and crew of a fishing boat that sank in the Sea of Cortez two years ago and killed eight California men were negligent.

The Contra Costa Times ( http://tinyurl.com/cyjkxay) reported on Tuesday that in a letter sent to Mexico's Secretary of Communications and Transportation, Coast Guard officials agreed with the conclusions of Mexican investigators.

Mexican investigators said "major modifications" made the boat unstable. Investigators also blamed the crew and captain for failing to issue safety instructions to passengers. The captain also failed to order everyone to abandon ship when it became obvious the vessel was sinking.

The Coast Guard cover letter commended the Mexican investigation, which was completed in early March.

"I applaud your ongoing efforts to hold the master and crew of the Erik accountable for their actions," read a cover letter to the Coast Guard review.

"That doesn't bring them back," a sobbing Elsie Wong, of Berkeley told the Times. Her husband Brian Wong perished in the accident.

A group of 27 U.S. fishermen and 16 Mexican crew members were on an annual boating excursion during the July 4th holiday break in 2011 when a freak storm off the coast of Baja California capsized and sank the Erik. Eight passengers died. Only one body was recovered, that of Leslie Yee, of Ceres. The other seven men's bodies were never found. They were: Wong, of Berkeley; Al Mein, of Twain Harte; Don Lee, of San Ramon; Gene Leong, of Dublin; Shawn Chaddock, of Petaluma; Russell Bautista, of Penngrove, and Mark Dorland, of Twain Harte.

Investigators also faulted the captain of the San Felipe port that berthed the Erik before its final excursion for failing to inspect the vessel and barring it from sailing.


(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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