The U.S. Coast Guard has called off its search for survivors after a suspected human smuggling boat capsized off the coast of San Diego Sunday, killing at least three people.
In a statement, the U.S. Coast Guard said that it “suspended its response Monday morning to an overturned boat near the Point Loma Tide Pools in the Cabrillo National Monument.”
The Coast Guard’s statement said, “Thirty-two people have been accounted for. Twenty-nine people are alive, of which, five were taken to the hospital with one of the five remaining in critical condition and three people were declared deceased by the San Diego County medical examiner.”
“After careful consideration using the information from our on-scene crews, partner agency input and the magnitude of the response efforts, the Coast Guard suspended our search on Monday morning,” said Captain Timothy Barelli, the Sector San Diego commander. “Yesterday, we were once again reminded how dangerous these ocean smuggling attempts can be and we will continue to work with our local, state and federal partners to prevent, detect and respond to cases like this to keep the waters of San Diego safe and secure.”
The cause of the tragedy is currently being investigated.
As The Daily Wire reported, 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. Original reporting recorded the number of deceased at four people.
“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. The people were 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
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