The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

American woman lost at sea in Mexico is confirmed dead, university says

The popular tourist resort of Puerto Peñasco in Mexico. Yeon-Su Kim and her husband, Corey Allen, went to Mexico for the long holiday weekend with their teenage daughter. (Annika Wolters/AP)

After days of search-and-rescue efforts, Yeon-Su Kim, an American who had been lost at sea in the Gulf of California along with her husband, has been confirmed dead, the president of Northern Arizona University said in a statement Sunday.

The statement added that the search for Kim’s husband, Corey Allen, continues.

Relatives of the Arizona couple said Kim’s body was found Sunday afternoon by a local fishing boat near Puerto Peñasco, Mexico, family friend Lisa Aumack told The Washington Post.

Earlier on Sunday, Mexican authorities in Sonora state said they had found a body matching the description of the couple, who were reported missing on Thanksgiving, but they did not confirm it was Kim’s body.

Allen, a real estate agent, and Kim, the executive director of the School of Forestry at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, went to Mexico for the holiday weekend with their teenage daughter, Aumack said.

About 1 p.m. Thursday, they headed out for sea kayaking at a beach in Puerto Peñasco, a Gulf of California resort city also known as Rocky Point.

“Very strong winds came up,” according to the verified GoFundMe page that Aumack created to aid the search effort. Allen brought his daughter back to shore — it is unclear whether he rowed her back or swam with her — then went back to help his wife.

That was the last time anyone saw Allen or Kim, Aumack said. Their daughter is still in Rocky Point, Aumack said.

Sonora state’s emergency services agency posted a photo of the missing couple on its Twitter account Saturday afternoon and said it was coordinating the search of land, sea and air with the navy and municipal authorities.

American tourists and locals with boats volunteered to look for the couple in the ocean, Aumack said. Shrimp boats were asked to search the ocean for the pair. People with ATVs offered to drive up and down the coast while scanning the sea, and volunteer pilots were flying above the Gulf of California to spot the missing Americans or the kayak.

Aumack’s granddaughter and the couple’s daughter are best friends, Aumack said. She has known the family — including their son, a college freshman, who did not go to Mexico — for 11 years.

“This is a family that is well known, much loved and respected in Flagstaff,” Aumack said. “It is a loss to the entire community.”

The university said in a statement: “Yeon-Su was an invaluable faculty member. Her accomplishments and contributions to her academic discipline, our university’s mission, and the broader community were many.”

The university also expressed hope that Kim’s husband soon would be found and brought home safely.