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Leslie Yee's family holds car wash
Relatives and friends of Leslie Yee of Ceres stood outside the Whitmore Avenue AM/PM Friday afternoon raising funds by washing cars to pay for the return of his body to the United States. Yee, 63, has been the only victim recovered from the July 3 accident which capsized a fishing boat in the Sea of Cortez with 44 aboard.

Seven others are still missing in the Gulf of California mishap caused when the boat was slammed by two waves approximately two miles off the coast. The incident occurred 60 miles south of San Felipe, Mexico.

On both Ninth Street and Whitmore Avenue, relatives held up signs advertising the car wash with photos of Yee on a previous fishing trip with pole in hand. The three-and-a-half hour effort raised $1,125 toward the $5,000 total needed to transport and handle the body. A number of persons pulled their cars into the station or walked up holding cash donations.

"The neighborhood really came out," said Anthony Carlegan. "It's an awesome little town the way they came out and gave their condolences and a lot came out and supported us and the Yee family. It was a really nice gathering. The Carlegan and Yee family we really do thank the commnity of Ceres. It's a wonderful little town."

In between car washings, they spoke to anyone about the kind of man Yee was.

"I helped him get his fishing poles together and made sure he had everything," said stepdaughter Elena Gracia of Ceres. "He bought a lot for this trip and was really, really excited."

Gracia said Yee was a father figure to her and a grandfather to her two children. They lived in the same home on Hollowell Drive in west Ceres.

"It hit us real hard but we're trying to take it day by day," said Gracia.

A Vietnam veteran who was retired as transportation manager of the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper circulation department, Yee lived in Ceres for approximately six years. Gracia said her stepfather was always hard working and classified him as a "workaholic" who retired two or three years ago.

"We all stressed that he needed to go on this trip. He loved to fish. It was his passion."

Yee was one of more than two dozen from California who were aboard the 115-foot fishing boat, the Erik, operated by Baja Sportfishing of San Diego, when it went down. The capsize occurred at approximately 2 a.m. and many victims who were swept into the water stayed alive by holding onto ice coolers, rescue rings and life vests for as much as 16 hours before they were plucked from the water by the Mexican Navy and local fishermen. Some managed to swim back to shore where they summoned aid.

Yee's body washed up on the shore of a small island.

Those still missing at sea include Albert Mein and Mark Dorland, both of Twain Harte, and Brian Wong. Among the luckier ones were Bob Higgins and Steven Sloneker, both of Sonora, and Joseph Beeler of Ripon.

Yee was accompanied by one of his best friends, Donald Lee of San Ramon, who was also missing in the waters and presumed drowned.

The Eric disembarked from San Felipe on Saturday for an intended seven-day crew with a 17-member Mexican crew and 27 tourists.

Assisting in the search for bodies and other survivors is the U.S. Coast Guard.