Border Patrol Takes 15 Into Custody After Suspected Smuggling Boat Capsizes Off CA Coast; 1 Dead

“The real danger here definitely is to the migrants that are on these vessels.”
A US Customs and Border Protection agent looks toward the ocean from within the Border Infrastructure System, a no man's land area between the wall and fence which runs for 14 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean separating California from Mexico on April 17, 2018 in San Diego, California across from La Playa, Mexico a day after California rejected plans by the federal government for National Guard troops on the border.
FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images

Authorities say one person died and ten others were rescued from a suspected smuggling boat that ultimately capsized off the La Jolla shore near San Diego, California, early Thursday morning.

According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, “The incident is one of at least four at-sea human smuggling attempts in San Diego in just the past week, and comes nearly three weeks after three undocumented immigrants drowned when their boat crashed near Cabrillo National Monument.”

Border Patrol agents said they began tracking a small panga-style vessel traveling north off the coast of Point Loma on Tuesday around 5:10 a.m. An agent saw multiple people in rough surf who appeared to be in distress about ten minutes later. Most wore life jackets or held on to them.

San Diego lifeguards were called to the scene and rescued ten people from the ocean who had jumped off the boat. Eight required medical attention and were transported to hospitals. Lifeguards said 15-18 individuals had been on board. A Border Patrol spokesman said 15 people were determined to be in the U.S. unlawfully and taken into custody.

San Diego Lifeguard Chief James Gartland called the accident “a smuggling event” when speaking with reporters on Tuesday morning.

The Union-Tribune reported that “the panga continued heading up the coast after the group of passengers jumped off.” It reportedly “came into shore at Wipeout Beach near Coast Boulevard, about a mile away” and capsized in the surf line. Lifeguard Lt. Ric Stell said one person was found submerged in water.

According to FOX 5, San Diego police, lifeguards, Harbor police, the U.S. Coast Guard, and Border Patrol responded to the emergency.

“The conditions out there today were rough,” said Lifeguard Capt. Maureen Hodges at a news conference. “We have 4- to 6-foot surf and some heavy currents.”

The Union-Tribune reported, “People seeking to cross the border are increasingly turning to the sea as enforcement is heightened at land borders.” The La Jolla coastline and shores near Sunset Cliffs have experienced increased activity, the outlet reported, citing criminal complaints filed in San Diego federal court and interviews with authorities.

Border Patrol reportedly used an infrared camera to spot a panga-style boat at about 2:15 a.m. last Friday. After the boat landed, agents tracked a group to the yard of a home nearby, where 14 Mexican nationals were found hiding.

On Saturday morning, at about 5:15 a.m., another boat transporting unlawfully present people landed in the same area. Law enforcement reportedly detained 16 Mexican citizens.

Then, 23 Mexicans and three Guatemalans were reportedly detained after another panga was spotted at about 2:50 a.m. on Monday. The panga’s driver ignored instructions from the Coast Guard to stop, but its engine died as the boat approached the shoreline.

“The real danger here definitely is to the migrants that are on these vessels,” said Border Patrol Agent Jacob MacIsaac. “These are basically open hulled fishing vessels, they are loading them, overloading them with occupants, with gas cans.”

MacIsaac said the panga boats are sometimes found in the ocean “dead in the water.”

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