Packed Boat Capsizes Off San Diego; 3 Dead

Officials suspect human smuggling; more than 2 dozen are hospitalized
By Liz MacGahan,  Newser Staff
Posted May 2, 2021 5:52 PM CDT

(Newser) – Three people died and more than two dozen were hospitalized when a boat capsized near San Diego. Officials say they suspect the boat was smuggling people into the US, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. Parks workers saw people in the water off the coast of Point Loma near the Cabrillo National Monument. Emergency crews were called around 10:30 Sunday morning, and lifeguards pulled people out of the water, some of whom needed CPR. Jose Ysea, a spokesman for the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, said there was a “large debris field” in the water, where it appeared choppy waves in rocky water had pummeled a wooden boat. He said it was possible, though he couldn't confirm, that the people were crammed into a small, open, wooden boat, a type often used by human smugglers, per the AP.

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Ysea said 27 people were hospitalized with varying degrees of injuries. Authorities were confident but not certain that everyone on the boat had been accounted for, but searchers in boats and aircraft continue to scan for survivors. San Diego Fire-Rescue Department tweeted that the US Coast Guard, among other agencies, is assisting. Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Jeffery Stephenson said he couldn’t confirm that the boat was involved in human smuggling, but that Border Patrol has intercepted small boats called “pangas” packed with passengers in the past. Border officials picked up 21 people in a small boat in the same area on Thursday, the Guardian reports. Some of the passengers were reported to be Mexican nationals seeking to enter the US, and the people suspected of smuggling them will face federal charges. (Read more human smuggling stories.)

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