At least four people are dead and over two dozen more have been injured after a suspected migrant smuggling operation went wrong after a 40-foot cabin cruiser boat capsized near San Diego, California.
The U.S. Coast Guard said that the incident occurred when the boat broke into pieces off Cabrillo National Monument at San Diego’s Point Loma, according to Reuters.
“The ocean is inherently unsafe,” U.S. Border Patrol supervisory agent Jeff Stephenson said at a Sunday news conference, according to The Washington Post.
“The reality is crossing the border illegally is unsafe no matter the method, especially at sea. …The smugglers, they don’t care about the people they’re exploiting. All they care about is profit,” he said. “To them, these people are just commodities. …Obviously, this [vessel] was severely overcrowded.”
The first call reporting the incident happened before 10 a.m. local time on Sunday, after which multiple groups responded including the U.S. Coast Guard and state and local agencies.
The 40-foot long boat had been severely damaged by the waves by the time rescue teams got to the scene, said Lifeguard Services Lt. Rick Romero at a news conference.
“When we arrived on the scene… There were people in the water, drowning, getting sucked out of the rip current…” he said.
“The boat was on the reef bouncing back and forth and then just slowly disintegrated into a bunch of pieces,” he added. “There’s no boat there. It’s all debris.”
Authorities said that multiple people were rescued from the water and some needed life-saving attempts performed on them once they were on the sand. There were originally about 30 people onboard in extremely crowded spaces without appropriate safety equipment.
“Every indication from our perspective is that this was a smuggling vessel, used to smuggle migrants into the United States illegally,” said Jeff Stephenson, a Border Patrol agent.
Stephenson said that his agency has seen an increase in maritime human smuggling attempts in recent years. Officials said that the man who they believe was the operator of the mission is with agents as the investigation unfolds.
The San Diego Fire-Rescue twitter account posted tweets describing the incident with photos of the boat’s debris.
Photos taken at the scene of the boat incident today. 40’ cabin cruiser broke up along the rocks inside the surf line. The @SDLifeguards cliff rescue veh was used to extricate one patient up to street level. pic.twitter.com/lQ54UdBWBG
— SDFD (@SDFD) May 2, 2021
This is the most recent case of a tragedy involving human smugglers and migrants at the U.S. southern border.
As The Daily Wire reported earlier this month, two separate vehicle crashes occurred “when two SUVs entered a 10-foot hole that had been cut in an old section of border fence, which was not part of former President Donald Trump’s wall.”
The Daily Wire reported:
The first accident temporarily garnered national headlines as one of the SUVs, a Ford Expedition carrying 25 people, collided with large tractor-trailer, killing 12 people instantly. Another individual later died at the hospital. The other 12 individuals were all transported to local hospital with injuries ranging from serious to critical, based on initial reporting. CBP said in a statement that “all are suspected to have entered the U.S. illegally.”
The second vehicle, a Chevy Suburban, was found in a nearby area “engulfed in flames on the U.S. side of the border,” the Los Angeles Times reported. Nineteen people were found hiding in the bushes near the crash and federal law enforcement officials determined “they had entered the country illegally through the breach in the border fence.” USA Today reported that the Suburban “carried” the 19 people before catching fire approximately 30 miles after crossing the border.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced shortly after the mass casualty accident that they had opened up a human smuggling investigation.