July 19, 2024

A dayslong search for three missing tourists who disappeared near a surfing town close to the U.S.-Mexico border continued on Friday as the authorities said that they had located three bodies.

Two Australian brothers and their friend, a U.S. citizen, had been on vacation surfing and camping along the coast near the Mexican city of Ensenada when they disappeared on Saturday.

The state’s attorney general, María Elena Andrade Ramírez, said in a news conference on Thursday that prosecutors were investigating three people related to the case but that crucial time had passed since the disappearance of the three men.

“Unfortunately, it wasn’t until the last few days that they were reported missing,” Ms. Andrade Ramírez told reporters. “So, that meant that important hours or time was lost.”

A U.S. State Department spokesperson said on Friday that the authorities were aware of reports of a U.S. citizen missing in Baja California but declined to provide further details.

Kira Boyd, a public affairs officer for the F.B.I.’s San Diego Field Office, confirmed in an email that three people were found dead near the town of Santo Tomás but did not specify whether they were the missing tourists.

“We are assessing every tip,” Ms. Boyd said. “If credible, we will pursue those leads with rigor.”

In 2022, 192 American citizens died in Mexico, State Department figures show, but most of those deaths were accidents or suicides. Only 46 were ruled as homicides.

The big waves in Baja California have long attracted throngs of surfers and travelers, many of whom have dealt with rising crime rates for nearly two decades.

But record levels of violence have hit the state in recent years. Government data shows that Baja California currently holds first place in vehicle theft and second place in homicides, most of which are related to drug dealing or organized crime, Mexico’s secretary of defense, Luis Cresencio Sandoval, said this year.

An official familiar with the investigation who was not authorized to speak publicly said a white pickup truck that the missing tourists had been traveling in was found charred near La Bocana beach in Santo Tomás. Other belongings and pieces of evidence were also being analyzed, the official added.

The swift effort to find the tourists was a rare exception in a country where nearly 100,000 people remain missing, according to the latest count provided by Mexican officials in March.

A majority of cases remain unsolved. Family members and volunteers are left on their own to follow up on leads, but the presence of cartels and a lack of support from the authorities make searching a dangerous mission.

#People #Dead #Baja #California

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