Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Search continues for 3 missing US sailors off Pacific coast

The Mexican Navy and the United States Coast Guard are searching for three U.S. citizens who have been missing since they left Mazatlán, Sinaloa, on a sailing vessel almost two weeks ago. 

Kerry O’Brien, Frank O’Brien and William Gross left Mazatlán on a 44-foot Lafitte sailboat named Ocean Bound on April 4, according to a statement issued by the United States Coast Guard on Friday. 

A La Fitte 44-type sailing yacht
The Ocean Bound and its crew have not been seen since setting off from Mazatlán on Apr. 4. (USCGNorCal/Twitter)

The Lafitte 44, a model built between 1978 and 1989, has a reputation among sailing enthusiasts for sturdiness; several have been used in circumnavigation journeys.

The missing group’s final intended destination was San Diego, California, but they planned to stop in Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur, on April 6 to pick up provisions and to report in, the Coast Guard said.  

However, there is no record of the trio arriving in Cabo San Lucas — located more than 300 km west of Mazatlán across the southern extremity of the Gulf of California — and they have yet to provide any report of their location. 

Mexico’s navy told the Associated Press on Sunday that two patrol vessels, two surveillance boats and a plane were searching for the three Americans, who have almost 100 years of experience between them, Gross’ daughter Melissa Spicuzza told NBC news

El Cid Marina in Mazatlán
The sailboat departed from Mazatlán for a stop in Los Cabos, Baja California Sur. (Tripadvisor)

Kerry and Frank O’Brien, a married couple, invited Gross to join them on their voyage, she said. 

The Coast Guard said it was assisting Mexico’s navy in its search, and noted that “search and rescue coordinators have contacted marinas throughout Baja, Mexico, with negative sightings of the vessel.”

“Urgent marine information broadcasts have been issued over VHF radio, requesting all mariners to keep a lookout for the missing persons and vessel,” it added. 

Commander Greg Higgins, a search mission coordinator for the Coast Guard, told CNN that weather conditions were not ideal when the sailors set off from Mazatlán. 

When they began their voyage, we know that the conditions were not optimal for that type of trip, though, certainly, there were sailing vessels out there during that time,” he said in an interview on Saturday.

“[There were] winds potentially over 30 knots and seas [of] 15 to 20 — maybe more — feet at the time of their voyage,” Higgins said. 

With “the permission of Mexico,” the Coast Guard has deployed aircraft and vessels to search for the sailors, he said. 

Higgins also said that the Coast Guard was using computer search tools to try to identify the location of the vessel based on environmental conditions, winds and currents. 

“[We’re looking at] where it may have drifted if they became distressed,” he said. 

The families’ statement said that “Bill has over 50 years of sailing experience and is an extremely talented coastal cruiser,” while Kerry and Frank have sailed together for 20 years and “both hold captain’s licenses with the U.S. Coast Guard.” 

Ocean Bound was described as a “sturdy older vessel” in the statement, which also said that “the sailing community has hundreds of additional vessels looking for our family members.” 

Spicuzza said that the last time she heard from her father was on the morning he and the O’Briens left Mazatlán. 

“Hopefully, somebody sees them and gets them to make contact or relay some messages,” she said.   

“… I’m just wanting my dad and the O’Briens to roll back in and be like, ‘What’s the big deal guys?’” she said. 

With reports from AP, CNN and ABC News

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