US, Mexican officials search for 3 American sailors last heard 11 days ago

Apr 15, 2023, 6:00 PM

William Gross, seen here, is one of three American sailors last heard from on April 4 near Mazatlá...

William Gross, seen here, is one of three American sailors last heard from on April 4 near Mazatlán, Mexico. (Source: Family handout)

(Source: Family handout)

(CNN) — The US Coast Guard is assisting Mexican navy crews in the search for three American sailors, last heard from on April 4 near Mazatlán, Mexico, according to a Coast Guard news release.

Kerry O’Brien, Frank O’Brien and William Gross are all “experienced sailors,” according to a joint statement from their families. They were aboard the Ocean Bound, a 44-foot La Fitte sailing vessel, when they left the Mexican city of Mazatlán en route to San Diego, the Coast Guard said.

“The sailors planned to stop in Cabo San Lucas on April 6 for provisions and to report in before continuing on to San Diego,” the news release said.

“However, there was no record of them arriving in Cabo San Lucas or a report in of their location.”

Rescue coordinators have contacted marinas throughout Baja, Mexico, but there have been no sightings of the vessel, the news release said.

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

Coast Guard officials urge anyone with information on the sailors or the sailing vessel to call the Coast Guard search and rescue coordination center at 510-437-3701.

Weather ‘not optimal’ for that type of trip

Cmdr. Greg Higgins, search mission coordinator for the US Coast Guard, said the weather was less than ideal when the trio set out.

“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. Winds potentially over 30 knots and seas 15 to 20, maybe more, feet at the time of their voyage,” Higgins told CNN’s Fredricka Whitfield Saturday.

“It’s a long trip for even in good conditions, from Mazatlán to Cabo. That’s two days, and certainly on to San Diego, which was their eventual destination. And since then it has improved marginally,” he added.

Higgins said he hopes to gather information from witnesses who might have seen the sailors who went missing.

“The Mexican Navy, now based in La Paz, Mexico, has the lead for search efforts, so there are numerous Mexican naval search and rescue assets that are working the case,” Higgins said. “For our portion, to support the excellent partnership that we have with Mexico and the Mexican Navy.

“We’ve conducted search planning, so we’re using computer search tools to identify where the vessel may be based on environmental conditions, winds, and currents, where it may have drifted if they became distressed, as well as Coast Guard aircraft, searching with the permission of Mexico, and Coast Guard cutters searching as well,” Higgins said.

Missing Americans are ‘experienced sailors,’ families say

The three Americans “are all experienced sailors,” according to a joint statement from their families.

“Bill has over 50 years of sailing experience and is an extremely talented coastal cruiser. Kerry and Frank have 20 years sailing together and both hold captains licenses with the US Coast Guard,” according to the statement.

Ocean Bound, described as “a sturdy older vessel,” departed Mazatlán on April 4 at about 9:30 a.m. local time. It headed “across the Sea of Cortez, a short stop had been planned in Cabo San Lucas and then to sail up the coast of Baja to San Diego,” the statement said. When they didn’t check in by the weekend, the Coast Guard was notified.

“Cell phone pings on 4/4/2023 show off the coast of Mazatlan as calls to marinas in Cabo San Lucas,” according to the families.

Their families presume they were trying to make slip reservations at the marina. But, because all the calls made were so short, it’s believed the attempts to reach someone were unsuccessful, said the statement. That calls are the last known contact with the Ocean Bound.

According to family, the Coast Guard “has a current ‘travel projection’ if Ocean Bound simply lost radio contact and continued her journey to San Diego at just North or South of Turtle Bay (Bahia Tortugas) on the Baja Peninsula and is focused on searching there, in addition to long aircraft sweeps along the Baja Peninsula.”

The parameters are reassessed each night to redefine the search the next day, according to the statement.

“The sailing community has hundreds of additional vessels looking for our family members,” said the joint statement.

The families thanked the Mexican Navy and US Coast Guard for their search and rescue operations.

“They have communicated all of their efforts with kindness and compassion more than once a day,” said the statement.

The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

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US, Mexican officials search for 3 American sailors last heard 11 days ago