Search Continues for 4 Children Lost in Raft Accident

September 25, 1985

San Diego County sheriff's deputies continued Tuesday to search the Rodriguez Dam reservoir for four children who are missing and presumed drowned after a raft capsized. Seven other children are known dead.

The rubber pontoon-type raft was carrying as many as 40 people when it capsized about 1:30 p.m. Sunday, said Sgt. Barry Zuniga, of the Sheriff's Department. Twenty-six people are known to have reached shore safely, authorities said.

The bodies of seven children ranging in age from 2 months to 9 years have been recovered from the muddy waters, authorities said.

The raft's owner, Pedro Lopez Hernandez, and German Robles, 19, who was piloting the raft when it capsized, have been arrested by Tijuana police and charged with negligence. In addition, the Mexican State Judicial Police have launched an investigation into the incident.

Authorities were continuing to search the reservoir for the bodies of Edith Skinsield Perez, 8; Carmilinda Zazuetha, 6; Eva Curiel, 12, and Berenece Aguilar, 10.

Mexican authorities said there has been much confusion surrounding the exact number of drowning victims. Initially, it was thought that more than 12 people, including two adults, had drowned, but only 11 victims have been named.

The area where the raft is docked--Paraiso Azteca--is a popular family recreational spot, Zuniga said.

The passengers on Sunday's ill-fated trip--mostly parents with their small children--were touring the calm waters of the reservoir, located east of Tijuana, when the raft began to take on water.

"It was apparently overloaded," Zuniga said. "The excessive weight caused water to leak over the sides and, as it began to take on water, it capsized."

The raft was propelled by a long pole.

A diving team from the Sheriff's Department's Special Enforcement Detail retrieved one body--that of Humberto Mejia, 8--from the reservoir.

The search for the remaining victims was hampered by poor underwater visibility. Zuniga said that four divers comprising the diving team were searching the southeastern tip of the reservoir where the water is about 25 feet deep.

The other victims were identified as Esmeralda Javier Nogares, 9; Guadalupe Javier Nogares, 3; Uriel Naun Quintero, 8 months; Jesus Humberto Mejia Cervantes, 8; Melisa Aguilar Cervantes, 9 months, and Israel Durante, 2 months.

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