Ad Blocker Detected
Our website is made possible by displaying online advertisements to our visitors. Please consider supporting us by disabling your ad blocker.
Three people died and more than two dozen people were rescued from the water off of the coast of Point Loma Sunday after a vessel overturned and broke apart in a possible human smuggling operation, according to authorities.
Dozens of rescue crews responded to the 200 block of Catalina Boulevard, near the Cabrillo National Monument, at about 10:30 a.m. for the report of an overturned boat, according to SDFD.
Once officials arrived at the scene, the boat, described as a forty-foot cabin cruiser, “had basically broken apart, said San Diego Lifeguard Lt. Rick Romero in an afternoon press conference.
A total of 30 people were on the boat, officials said. Most of them were able to walk out to shore but seven of them got sucked into a rip current, Romero said.
“Our goal was just to rescue everyone we can from the water and on the beach and get them out safely and get them transported to the hospital as quickly as we can,” Romero said.
Video shows a vessel overturned and broken apart that was carrying 30 people in a possible human smuggling operation, officials said.
Three people died at the scene, according to San Diego Fire-Rescue.
At least 27 others were injured and taken to area hospitals for treatment, including Sharp Memorial, Palomar Medical Center West, Alvarado, UCSD Medical Center, Grossmont Hospital, Kaiser Clairemont Mesa, Kaiser Zion and Paradise Valley Hospital, according to SDFD.
The people transferred to the hospitals suffered a wide range of injuries, Romero said.
Nick Vonesch witnessed dozens of ambulance and fire truck vehicles heading towards the scene and called it “biggest search and rescue thing I’ve ever seen. It is a little scary.”
Jeff Stephenson, Supervisor United States Border Patrol Agent, said every indication points this was a smuggling vessel used to smuggle migrants into the U.S. illegally.
“The man who we believe was the operator, agents are with him, and is the suspected smuggler, but the investigation is still unfolding,” Stephenson said.
Days earlier, USBP Chief Agent Aaron M. Heitke said the agency had recently seen an increase in the number of illegal crossings at sea and would be ramping up coastal patrols this weekend as a result.
“We were putting more resources out in the water to interdict vessels like this and we announced it in advance to try to deter as much as we could to try and send a message to smugglers,” Stephenson said.
Stephenson described the boat as being “severely overcrowded” and said USBP was not aware of the boat before the incident as believes they blended in with other commercial boats as they did not present any red flags.
The description of the people on board has not yet been released as well as their nationalities. It was not immediately clear what caused the incident.
Michael Kramer, a boater who was biking in the Cabrillo area at the time, said inexperienced boaters often have difficulty navigating around Point Loma.
“This is a really tricky area sailing out of the San Diego Harbor and coming around the point here,” Kramer said. “There’s a lot of rogue waves and what not and there’s a shoal further on out. You really have to sail out about a mile to two miles before you hang a right and start going up the coast and people get into trouble all the time because they take it too close.”
Investigators have not yet said where the boat was coming from or where it was headed.
This is a breaking news story. Check this page for updates.