Three Dead And 27 Rescued After Suspected Smuggling Boat Overturns Off San Diego Coast


Three people died, and 27 others were rescued Sunday morning after a boat suspected of smuggling people from Tijuana, Mexico, north to San Diego, California, capsized, according to local law enforcement.

The incident unfolded around 10:30 a.m. local time near the Cabrillo National Monument at the tip of Point Loma, a coastal community near downtown San Diego. Both Customs and Border Protection and the Navy have vessels based near that neighborhood.

The overloaded boat crashed into the shoreline of the peninsula and then flipped upside down. A report from the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department stated that first responders were on the scene roughly 10 minutes after a call came in about a boat carrying more than 20 people overturning.

Boat Capsizes California
Wreckage and debris from a capsized boat washes ashore at Cabrillo National Monument near where a boat capsized just off the San Diego coast Sunday, May 2, 2021, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)
Denis Poroy/AP
Emergency officials, including the Border Patrol, U.S. Coast Guard, SDFRD, and lifeguards, responded to the scene. The more than two dozen people who were pulled from the wreck were taken to eight local hospitals. Three people did not survive, but officials have not released information about the cause of death.

A Customs and Border Protection spokesman based in San Diego said the boat might have been used to transport noncitizens into the United States, according to San Diego radio station KPBS. The boat is believed to be a small fishing vessel with an outboard motor.

Boat Capsizes California
A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter flies over boats searching the area where a boat capsized just off the San Diego coast Sunday, May 2, 2021, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)
Denis Poroy/AP
Just two days before the fatal incident, CBP’s San Diego office issued a statement that it was dedicating extra resources to coastal patrols around San Diego between April 30 and May 3.

“We’ve seen a dramatic increase in the number of maritime smuggling attempts recently,” the agency’s chief patrol agent for San Diego, Aaron Heitke, said. “All of these illegal crossings at sea are inherently dangerous, and we have seen too many turn from risky to tragic as smugglers sacrifice the safety of those on board for the sake of profits.”

In 2020, Heitke told the Washington Examiner during a boat tour of the San Diego-Tijuana border that agents were seeing a record-high number of water interdictions, which he said was a result of solidifying the land border with border wall funded by both the Obama and Trump administrations.

Agents, using jet skis and boats to patrol the 20-mile stretch from the border to San Diego, made 302 interdictions in fiscal year 2020, which ran from Oct. 1, 2019, through Sept. 30 2020, compared to 195 the previous year and 88 in 2015. One such incident resulted in the seizure of a small boat that was loaded with more than 3,000 pounds of methamphetamine.

Smugglers operating a boat can get from Tijuana to San Diego by water in seven minutes, the Washington Examiner reported during a maritime tour of the area with CBP agents in 2019.

On a normal summer weekend, hundreds of boats will come and go in the San Diego Bay. Kris Goland, a marine supervisory agent based out of CBP Air and Marine Operations’ San Diego office, said smugglers will often take an ordinary fishing or recreational boat to blend in with the other recreational boaters while moving illegal migrants or drugs into the U.S.

The U.S. is facing a historic surge of migrants along its southern border. More than 170,000 migrants were encountered at the border in March, according to CBP, and reports indicate that an unprecedented 117,000 migrant children will enter the U.S. by the end of 2021. The most recent border surge saw the arrival of 80,000 unaccompanied minors at the southern border in 2019.

Author : Anna Giaritelli

Source : Washington Examiner : Three dead and 27 rescued after suspected smuggling boat overturns off San Diego coast