Family of Twain Harte fisherman urging officials to continue search

Albert Mein of Twain Harte is pictured with a catch on the 115-foot sport fishing boat called the Erik on a past fishing trip.
Albert Mein of Twain Harte is pictured with a catch on the 115-foot sport fishing boat called the Erik on a past fishing trip. (Mein Family)

The search for survivors from Sunday's boating accident in Mexico's Gulf of California will continue for another 24 to 48 hours, according to families of the missing fishermen.

The families of missing Twain Harte residents Albert Mein and Mark Dorland and five other men put pressure on the Mexican government to not call off the search on Wednesday. The American tourists went missing after a storm sunk their fishing boat Sunday in the Gulf of California.

California state Sen. Leland Yee confirmed on Wednesday during a news briefing that Mexican authorities told him the search would extend beyond the government's standard 96 hours following an accident.

Leslie Yee, 63, of Ceres is the only confirmed death from the tragedy. Bob Higgins and Steven Sloneker of Sonora and Joseph Beeler of Ripon were rescued, along with 16 other Americans.

U.S. Consulate spokesman Joseph Crook said no other survivors or bodies were recovered on Wednesday and the search will continue by boat. The Mexican navy, Mexican marines and U.S. Coast Guard are all taking part in the search, with the Mexican government orchestrating the efforts.

The rescued men are expected to return to the United States today, said Dena Jacinto, Albert Mein's daughter-in-law.

Family members were relieved to learn the search would continue.

"The local residents (in San Felipe, Mexico) are saying they have rescued people from other accidents up to seven days after they went overboard. Those people were still alive, and that's why we have hope," Jacinto said.

Mein's stepson Joe Jacinto is now in San Felipe to help search for survivors. Dena Jacinto said he was on private boat all of Wednesday looking along the shores of five islands where his father or others might be.

"We're in constant contact (with the other families) and we've all been sharing information," Jacinto said.

The families have set up a Website (findourfathers.blogspot.com), Facebook page and Twitter account to share information among themselves and the public about the search.

Jacinto said they were told the Mexican navy today would not send divers down to search the sunken 115-foot fishing vessel until after the search and rescue phase of the operation was completed. After that, it would be considered a recovery mission.

She said family members are all hoping the search will go on until all of the men on the boat are accounted for. She said it's been a nerve-wracking time for the families.

"It's exhausting, but we know we have to be strong," she said. "(Mein) is extremely healthy, so we think that if anyone can survive, he can."

Mein, 62, apparently has recovered from a close call before. While serving as a U.S. soldier during the Vietnam War, his tank ran over a landmine and exploded. Jacinto said he was trapped in the wreckage, but found a way to survive. He earned medals for his wartime efforts.

Mein was born and raised in Modesto to a family with 14 brothers and sisters. He lived in Modesto most his life and worked 33 years for AT&T before recently retiring.

He and his wife, Sharren Mein, moved to Twain Harte a couple years ago.

"He's my rock," his wife said. They have been together 40 years and married for 35 years.

She said he loved to fish, and he had made this annual trip to Mexico with friends for about 10 years.

"All these guys know each other," Sharren Mein said.

They relied on the fishing vessel's 16-member crew to keep them safe, but that trust may have been misplaced.

She said her husband has talked to every survivor, some of them told him the captain "royally screwed up."

Some said the weather was so bad on Saturday night that the captain was told to remain in port, Jacinto said.

The boat's owner, Baja Sportfishing, has cancelled all future trips.

In an e-mail statement earlier this week, Baja Sportfishing said: "We are devastated by this horrible tragedy. Every effort is being made to assist the authorities in the search. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the families."

Bee staff writer J.N. Sbranti can be reached at jsbranti@modbee.com or 578-2196.