Search suspended for missing Americans

Published on April 20th, 2023

The U.S. Coast Guard has been informed that the Mexican Navy (SEMAR) has suspended their search on April 19 for three American mariners aboard the La Fitte 44 Ocean Bound, which was last heard from on April 4 near Mazatlán, Mexico.

Kerry O’Brien, Frank O’Brien, and William Gross aboard the sailboat reportedly left Mazatlán on April 4 en route to San Diego, Calif., with plans to stop in Cabo San Lucas on April 6, report in and reprovision. However, they did not report in or arrive in Cabo San Lucas.

Search and rescue coordinators contacted marinas throughout Baja, Mexico, which resulted in no sightings of the vessel. Urgent marine information broadcasts were also issued over VHF radio, but yielded no additional information.

The search was suspended pending further developments after SEMAR and U.S. Coast Guard responders conducted 281 cumulative search hours covering approximately 200,057 square nautical miles, an area larger than the state of California, off Mexico’s northern Pacific coast with no sign of the missing sailing vessel nor its passengers.

“An exhaustive search was conducted by our international search and rescue partner, Mexico, with the U.S. Coast Guard and Canada providing additional search assets,” said Cmdr. Gregory Higgins, command center chief, Coast Guard District 11.

“SEMAR and U.S. Coast Guard assets worked hand-in-hand for all aspects of the case. Unfortunately, we found no evidence of the three Americans’ whereabouts or what might have happened. Our deepest sympathies go out to the families and friends of William Gross, Kerry O’Brien and Frank O’Brien.”

Their last known contact took place on April 4 when their cell phone pings show them off the coast of Mazatlan. Weather conditions that day had approximately 30 knot winds and 15-to-20-foot swells.

This is a reminder for mariners of the importance of providing a person ashore with your float plan which in this case allowed the U.S Coast Guard to be notified when the missing sailors did not check in with family. It also underscores the importance of carrying a registered 406MHZ electronic position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) for automatic notification in emergencies.

The Lafitte 44 was designed by Robert Perry and built in Taiwan.

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