8 dead after smuggling boats capsize off San Diego coast

SAN DIEGO (AP) — At least eight people were killed when two migrant-smuggling boats capsized in shallow but treacherous surf amid thick fog, authorities said Sunday, in one of the worst maritime human-smuggling operations ever off the U.S. coast.

A Spanish-speaking woman on one of the panga-style boats called 911 Saturday night to say the other vessel had capsized in the waves off Black’s Beach, authorities said. He said there were 15 people on board the overturned vessel and eight on board.

Coast Guard and San Diego Fire Rescue crews pulled the bodies of eight adults from the water, but fog hampered the search for more victims. Rescue operations resumed on Sunday, but no more bodies were recovered.

Survivors, including the woman who called 911, may have escaped on land. Authorities do not know his whereabouts.

San Diego Lifeguard Chief James Gartland said rescue crews found both boats capsized in shallow water when they arrived. The surf was moderate, with a swell of 3 feet (about 1 meter), but the sky was foggy and black.

“That area is very dangerous, even during the day,” Gartland told a news conference. “It has a series of sand dunes and rip currents on the shore, so you might think you can land on some sand or get into waist-high, knee-high water and think you’ll be safe to get out of the water. , but long, there are holes in the shore. You get into those holes. Once in, the currents will pull you along the shore and back out to sea.

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Black’s Beach is about 15 miles (24 kilometers) north of downtown San Diego in a secluded area far from the popular La Jolla Beach. Its popularity attracts many surfers to some of the best breaks in Southern California.

Hundreds of maritime smuggling operations occur each year off the coast of California and are sometimes fatal. In May 2021An overcrowded boat carrying migrants capsized and broke up in powerful waves off a rocky San Diego beach, killing three people and injuring more than two dozen others.

Trafficking on the California coast is down For years, but for too long it has been a risky alternative for migrants to avoid heavily guarded land borders. Bangas enter at night from Mexico, sometimes showing up hundreds of miles to the north. Recreational boats try to blend in unnoticed with fishing and pleasure craft during the day.

South of the U.S. border, there are many secluded, private beaches nestled between high-rise buildings with inlets with spectacular ocean views, only partially built because funding dried up during construction. Popotla, a fishing village whose narrow streets are lined with vendors selling a variety of local fish, is popular among smugglers for its large, sandy beach and relatively gentle waves.

Some of Saturday’s victims were Mexican, but it was not known how many, according to the embassy in San Diego. Illegal crossings have increased under President Joe Biden, with many immigrants turning themselves into Border Patrol agents and released to the United States to pursue their cases in immigration court.

A pandemic rule scheduled to expire on May 11 denies migrants the chance to seek asylum on grounds of preventing the spread of Covid-19, but enforcement has fallen disproportionately on Mexicans, Hondurans, Guatemalans and El Salvadorans, as they are the only nationalities recognized by Mexico. Take it back.

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As a result, people from those four countries are trying to evade capture, knowing they are likely to be deported under a public health provision known as Title 42 authority. Mexico started recently Return of Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans under Title 42.


Associated Press writer Christopher Weber contributed from Los Angeles.

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