Missing fishermen off Mexico have Hawaii ties

Donald Lee & Albert Mein
Donald Lee & Albert Mein
Conrad Nakamoto
Conrad Nakamoto
Lee Family
Lee Family

By Ben Gutierrez - bio | email

PEARL CITY and SAN RAMON, Calif. (HawaiiNewsNow) - Two men with Hawaii ties are among seven still missing after a 115-foot fishing boat capsized and sank in a sudden storm in the Sea of Cortez off Mexico.

Donald Lee and Albert Mein of Northern California were among 27 passengers and 16 crew members aboard the Mexican fishing vessel "Erik" when it capsized early Sunday morning. Most of the passengers were from Northern California.

Officials said one person died. One survivor swam for 18 hours before he was rescued, along with 35 other people.  However, Lee and Mein are among those still missing.

Conrad Nakamoto of Pearl City said the two are avid fishermen who spent a lot of time in waters off the San Francisco Bay area, where they live.

"I'm up there a lot, at least four months a year," Nakamoto said. "They're always offering me to go fishing with them. And with this trip being in July, if I was up there, I probably would've been on that trip with them also."

Lee and Mein are the uncles of Nakamoto's wife, Lisa. They said the two men have been going on this fishing trip annual for the past ten years.

"We just heard, of course, through word of mouth from other relatives," said Lisa Nakamoto, in San Francisco. "It was definitely a shock and is still really hard to believe."

"The family is very devastated," Conrad Nakamoto said. "They have a base camp going on at the home in San Ramon to get the ball rolling to get this search extended for them."

The home is the one where Don Lee's wife and two daughters are spearheading the effort. They and the families of other missing men are on computers and working the phones, trying to get help.

"We need our dads to come home, and we need our uncles and friends to come home, and we need federal muscle and power to help us," said Lee's daughter Mandi.

"We keep getting conflicting reports," said another daughter, Janine. "When we get good news, it's great. When he get the bad news we prepared, but it's been a roller coaster."

The families have started a Facebook page for the missing men. And the Nakamoto's believe fishermen in Hawaii and others in the islands might be able to help by going to that page.

"Have you been to that general area for work or for fishing," said Conrad Nakamoto. "You might know something that maybe the rescuers in Mexico or the U.S. do not know, then you may put some input there because they are viewing that page every day."

The Mexican government said it would search until Friday. The families of those missing said they may conduct a private search if the men are not found by then.

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