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Coast Guard Searching For Survivors After Boat Capsizes Off Baja

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DANA POINT (CBS) — At least one American tourist was killed and several other passengers were still missing after a chartered fishing ship was struck by two rogue waves in the Sea of Cortez and capsized. The Coast Guard dispatched a helicopter from San Diego to help search for survivors.

The ship, called the “Erik”, was sold-out for a four-night trip out of San Felipe, 300 miles southeast of Los Angeles. One person was confirmed drowned, seven other Americans were missing, and 37 others were rescued at sea or swam ashore, said a Mexican Navy spokesman at San Felipe. The U.S. tourist who died has not been identified.

The vessel was hit by two giant waves and capsized near Isla San Luis, Baja California, with 44 people aboard around 2:30 a.m. Sunday, according to the Coast Guard. The boat sank less than two miles offshore and most passengers swam to shore or were rescued by other boats.

The Erik is a “mother ship,” with supplies, sleeping berths and a galley for a fleet of “panga” boats that take fishermen to spots in the northern end of the Sea of Cortez. Trips are offered by a Southern California company called Baja Sportfishing.

“We have been working with Mexican Navy authorities and the US Coast Guard in the search and rescue. Right now our main concern is making sure that everyone is accounted for,” Baja Sportfishing said in a statement Monday.

The Mexican Navy searched throughout the day with surface and air crews, and officers called the U.S. Coast Guard Sunday evening for helicopter assistance, Coast Guard officials said.

Water temperatures there are warm, but officials said survival chances depend on variables like life jackets, age of the person and other factors.

Officials say most of the passengers were from Northern California.

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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