Two people were killed and nearly two dozen were taken to hospital after a wooden boat capsized on Sunday during a possible human smuggling operation off the coast of San Diego, authorities said.
Local rescuers, the U.S. Coast Guard and other agencies responded around 10:30 a.m. PT after reports of an overturned ship near the Point Loma Peninsula, the San Diego Fire and Rescue Service said.
Ysea said that when he arrived at the site near the Cabrillo National Monument, there was a “large field for debris” from broken wood and other objects in the exciting waters.
“It’s very rocky in this area of Point Loma. “Probably the waves just hit the boat, breaking it,” Issy said.
He said it was possible, but not confirmed, that the group was packed in a low-displaced panga boat, a type of small motorized ship, often made of wood, used by smugglers to smuggle people into the United States from Mexico.
Officials believed everyone on board was counted, but crews in boats and planes continued to search the area for possible survivors, Ysea said.
The US Border Patrol did not respond immediately to overturning requests. A press conference was scheduled.
Border patrols often spot pangas near San Diego, many crowded with about 20 passengers. Some have landed hundreds of miles north of the US-Mexico border. The deaths are unusual, but not unprecedented.
On Thursday, border guards intercepted a panga-type ship traveling without navigation lights 11 miles from Point Loma with 21 people on board. The crew detained 15 men and six women.
Agents found that all were Mexican citizens without legal status to enter the United States, according to a statement issued by Customs and Border Protection. Two of the people on the boat, suspected of smuggling, will face federal charges, the statement said.
A border patrol said Friday that law enforcement officials will step up operations to stop maritime smuggling off the coast of San Diego this weekend.
With warmer weather in San Diego, there is a misconception that this will make illegal crossings safer or easier, the agency said in a statement.