Officials in San Diego, California, report at least three migrants died and as many as 27 were injured when a human smuggler’s overloaded vessel capsized off the coast.
San Diego Fire Department (SDFD) officials tweeted images from the scene where a 40′ cabin cruiser broke apart on the rocky coastline after overturning in the surf. A multi-agency response led to the rescue of dozens of smuggled migrants and the recovery of at least three bodies.
SDFD Lifeguard Services Lieutenant Rick Romero told reporters rescuers pulled seven people from the waves including the three migrants who died. The cold surf was running five to six feet on Sunday morning when the incident occurred, Fox News reported. The boat quickly broke apart as the waves smashed it into the rocky shore.
Homeland Security Investigations spokesman Jose Ysea confirmed the deaths of three people and that 27 were transported to local hospitals for “varying degrees of injuries.”
Agents responding to the failed human smuggling attempt included the SDFD, local lifeguards, the U.S. Coast Guard, Border Patrol, and other agencies, NPR reported.
Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Jeff Stephenson told the reporters, “Every indication from our perspective is that this was a smuggling vessel.” He said the boat was “severely overcrowded.”
The captain of the boat is under arrest under federal charges that appear to be related to human smuggling resulting in death to migrants.
Stephenson said the San Diego Sector experienced a growing number of maritime smuggling apprehensions this year. He said the boat appeared to be attempting to blend in with commercial vessels before capsizing onto the rocky coastline.
Officials have not yet released information on the migrants.
On Saturday, San Diego Sector Border Patrol officials announced a stepped-up operation to attempt to disrupt maritime smuggling incidents. The effort includes assets from CBP’s Air and Marine Operations and Border Patrol.