updated 2/4/2008 11:20:21 AM ET 2008-02-04T16:20:21

A 78-year-old California man was found dead in southern Mexico after his yacht ran aground near shore, the U.S. Embassy said Sunday.

The body of a man believed to be John J. Long, of Alameda, Calif., was found floating Saturday afternoon by his sailboat near the town of Puerto Madero, just north of Mexico’s border with Guatemala, embassy spokeswoman Judith Bryan said.

It was unclear how Long died or why the vessel ran aground. Bryan said he sent a distress signal from the boat Culin, which bore Irish, Mexican and U.S. flags. The U.S. Coast Guard confirmed its Alameda center received an alert.

Authorities in Puerto Madero told the U.S. Embassy the boat may have encountered electrical problems, she added.

Meanwhile, Mexican authorities were investigating whether the boat was linked to organized crime or drug trafficking, after they discovered a false bottom, presumably for cargo, said an official with Mexico’s navy who asked not to be named for security reasons. He said Long was found with bruises all over his body.

Residents of a nearby town saw two people carrying suitcases leave the boat, said Saul Gomez, head of a local fishermen’s group.

Two people were detained in connection with the incident, state police spokesman Bernardo Gomez said, but it was not clear if they were the same pair seen exiting the boat.

Long was born in Ireland but was a U.S. citizen, Bryan said.

The Culin, a 48-foot recreational boat, is registered under Long’s name in Alameda, according to the Web site Boatinfoworld.com, which collects public records.

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