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A year after Mexico fishing disaster, still seeking answers

  • A year after her husband Russell Bautista died with several other men on a fishing trip in Mexico, his widow Joelle Bautista throws roses in to the ocean for each person that died in the accident including her husband, from the back of their fishing boat at Spud Point Marina in Bodega Bay. Her son Maxwell and Joelle were cleaning up the boat to sell it, Tuesday July 3, 2012. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2012

Joelle Bautista did not feel a sense of peace three weeks ago when divers found a sunken ship off the coast of Mexico that might contain her husband's remains.

Instead, the anger that has made it difficult for the Penngrove woman to sleep some nights spilled over into letters she dispatched this week to the presidents of two countries.

"This event has been referred to as a &‘tragic accident,' but in actuality it was not an accident," she wrote to Mexican President Felipe Calder?.

Fishing Boat Capsizes Off Mexico

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She added: "We hope you value American lives just as you do your own countrymen."

Bautista timed the letters, including one to President Barack Obama, to coincide with the one-year anniversary on Tuesday of the boating disaster that left the mother of two adrift and heartbroken.

Russ Bautista, a retired Pacific Bell worker, was with a group of six Sonoma County men who drove to Baja California last July for what was supposed to be a six-day fishing adventure over the holiday.

It instead turned into a nightmare when the 105-foot Erik began to capsize in a fierce storm just as the boat's occupants, including 27 Americans, were bunking down for the night. As the ship plunged into the dark sea, the men scrambled to get topside and jump overboard.

The survivors floated overnight and for much of the next day in the warm sea before being rescued.

Seven men remain missing and are presumed dead, including Bautista, 60, and Petaluma auto mechanic Shawn Chaddock, 49. Another man, Leslie Yee, 65, of Ceres, is the lone confirmed death so far.

After months of fruitless searching, divers found the boat last month resting upright on the sea's floor nearly 200 feet below the surface. The vessel was entangled in nets from shrimping boats.


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