Calif. congresswomen's brother missing at sea

/ Source: The Associated Press

The brother of California U.S. Reps. Loretta and Linda Sanchez and his girlfriend were missing Friday after an apparent boating accident off the coast.

A debris field found in the ocean contained fragments from the boat Henry Sanchez was aboard with his girlfriend Penny Avila, the Sanchez sisters said in a statement issued in Washington, D.C.

"We pray and hope that Henry and Penny are found alive and well," the sisters wrote.

Henry Sanchez, 51, and Avila, 48, both of Santa Ana, left Alamitos Bay near Long Beach late Wednesday or early Thursday en route to Santa Catalina Island and never arrived, Coast Guard Ensign Stephanie Young said.

The debris was found by a passing boater about five miles south of the Los Angeles harbor entrance at 7:30 a.m. Thursday, she said. A search was called off at midday Friday after covering 300 square miles.

"We have an indication there was a possible collision and we're still looking into that," Young said.

KABC-TV showed Coast Guard personnel bringing ashore debris including part of small metal boat, a broken ice chest, a lifejacket, wood and several toy swords. This weekend is the annual Buccaneer Days pirate-theme festival at the island village of Two Harbors.

Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Steve Hall said the couple were in a Bayliner pleasure boat. Investigators were working to identify a second vessel, he said.

The Coast Guard, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and other agencies were searching the ocean and checking area hospitals, Young said.

Catalina, about 20 miles off the coast, is a popular destination for boaters.

Loretta Sanchez represents the 47th District in Orange County. Linda Sanchez represents the 39th District in Los Angeles County.