HomeNews8 dead after smuggling boats capsize off San Diego coast

    8 dead after smuggling boats capsize off San Diego coast

    Captain James Spitler, from the US Coast Guard, speaks to members of the media after two fishing boats capsized off the coast of San Diego, California, US March 12, 2023.

    At least eight people were killed when two migrant smuggling boats capsized in shallow but treacherous surf amid heavy fog, authorities said Sunday, March 12, marking one of the deadliest maritime human smuggling operations ever off of US shores.

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

    Coast Guard and San Diego Fire-Rescue crews pulled the bodies of eight adults from the water, but fog hampered the search for additional victims. Recovery efforts resumed Sunday but no additional bodies were found. Survivors may have escaped on land, including the woman who called 911. Authorities did not know her whereabouts.

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    A very hazardous area

    San Diego Lifeguard Chief James Gartland said rescuers found the two boats overturned in shallow waters when they arrived. Surf was modest, with swells around 3 feet (1 meter), but skies were foggy and black. “That area is very hazardous, even in the daytime,” Gartland said at a news conference. “It has a series of sandbars and in-shore rip currents, so you can think that you can land in some sand or get to waist- high, knee-high water and think that you’re able to be safe to exit the water, but there are long, in-shore holes. If you step into those holes, those rip 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 not far from the popular La Jolla Shores. Its reputation for some of the best breaks in Southern California draws many surfers.

    Hundreds of maritime smuggling operations occur every year off California’s coast and sometimes turn fatal. In May 2021, a packed boat carrying capsized migrants and broke apart in powerful surf along the rocky San Diego coast, killing three people and injuring more than two dozen others.

    The World with AP

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