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Thursday
Jul072011

Mexico Extends Search for Americans Lost at Sea Since Sunday

Comstock/Thinkstock(BAJA CALIFORNIA, Mexico) -- Mexico will continue rescue operations in the search for seven American tourists who have been missing since last Sunday when their fishing boat capsized off the coast of Baja California and sank.

The 115-foot boat Erik left San Felipe, which is known as the Sea of Cortez in Mexico, on Saturday for a six-day fishing trip with 43 people on board, including 27 U.S. tourists. Its first night out, the sport fishing charter was struck by an electrical storm and sank two miles offshore early Sunday. After searching for almost 24 hours, port and Mexican Navy officials found one U.S. citizen dead.

Just how long can a person stay alive in warm ocean waters was the question experts were debating today. "I hate to say that it's going to be very unlikely they survive," said Dr. Henderson McGinnis, a professor of emergency medicine and a fellow in wilderness medicine at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. "But if they don't find them today, chances are pretty slim.

The 19 tourists and all crew members who survived the capsizing described clinging to coolers, rescue rings and life vests for 16 hours before they began to swim to shore and were picked up by other fishing boats.

McGinnis said healthy people can withstand the elements for about three to five days -- and that is without exerting themselves by treading water or swimming.

But many other factors are at play, including exposure to sun, dehydration and even the degree to which they are level-headed and committed to their survival.

The sun can cause heat stroke and exhaustion. If a person is swimming, rather than floating, they are more prone to both. Some of the men may have not even survived the capsizing and may have been rendered unconscious.

If survivors are level-headed, they can make a "distillation chamber" from parts of the wreckage to trap water from condensation or rain, he said.

As for poisonous jellyfish or sharks, it's less likely they will cause the fishermen's demise. "Unless you are bleeding or have cuts -- sharks are overhyped because of [the movie] 'Jaws,'" he said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio