U.S. Secretary of Defense Panetta
Office of the Secretary of Defense
1400 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301-1400
Dear Secretary Panetta:
On July 3, 2011, seven California families lost family members aboard the Erik, which capsized in the Sea of Cortez south of San Felipe in Baja, Mexico. As of today, seven California families are left wondering if their loved ones remain within the Erik. They are unable to properly mourn their loved ones, access life insurance, retrieve financial instruments and administer property. The U.S. Department of Defense officially declined the families’ request to send expert divers to aid in the search due to lack of resources.
In 2001, a Japanese fishing vessel, Ehime Maru, was struck by the U.S. Navy Submarine Greenville as it surfaced. The Ehime Maru immediately sunk. It was moved to shallow water as the ocean floor was determined to be too deep to send a dive team. Eight of the missing fishermen's bodies were recovered.
The United States rightly recovered a foreign boat and subsequently searched it for missing crew members. It fittingly can and should afford the same respect to our very own U. S. citizens. It is the U.S. Department of Defense’s duty to search the wreckage and bring our seven missing Americans home. Two of the missing fishermen are decorated U.S. Veterans; Gene Leong is a recipient of a Purple Heart and Albert Mein received eight service awards during his tour in Vietnam.
I respectfully urge you to take immediate action:
• Reconsider the U.S. Department of Defense’s decision about assisting with the recovery efforts
• Appoint experts to locate the boat and lead a feasibility analysis to determine if a dive team can be sent to the Erik’s current location with expert equipment or if the Erik needs to be moved to shallow water for a dive team to search.
• Authorize and deploy an expert team to Baja, Mexico. Based on the feasibility analysis, deploy the expert team(s) needed search and recover the seven missing American men; Donald Lee, Albert Mein, Gene Leong, Russell Bautista, Shawn Chaddock, Mark Dorland and Brian Wong.
It is our duty as the United States to honorably act on behalf of our citizens, especially our U.S. Veterans.
City, State Zip ________________________________________________________________
cc: President Obama
1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20500