One Dead, 15 In Custody After Suspected Smuggling Boat Dropped Passengers Off La Jolla Coast
One person died and 15 people were in custody Thursday morning after a suspected smuggling boat dropped its passengers off the coast of La Jolla, authorities said.
At about 5:10 a.m., a Border Patrol agent spotted a panga boat traveling northbound off the coast near Point Loma, said Jeffrey Stephenson of Customs and Border Protection's public affairs office.
Additional agents responded to the area to intercept the vessel, but about 10 minutes later, agents onshore spotted several people from the boat in distress in the water near La Jolla Children's Pool, off the 800 block of Coast Boulevard, Stephenson said.
At about 5:30 a.m., lifeguards responded to the 300 block of Marine Street after receiving a report that some of the boat's occupants were in the water near the 300 block of Marine Street, said San Diego Fire-Rescue spokeswoman Monica Munoz.
Lifeguards rescued 10 people in "rough water conditions," Munoz said. Several of those people were wearing life vests, she said.
Eight of the 10 people were taken to hospitals for treatment of unknown injuries, Munoz said.
The panga boat continued up the coast and crashed at Wipeout Beach, near the 700 block of Coast Boulevard, she said. One person was found submerged in the water at that location.
Emergency personnel performed CPR, but that person was pronounced dead at the scene, she said. No details about the victim were immediately available.
A total of 15 people from the suspected smuggling boat were in custody Thursday morning, Stephenson said.
“A regional refugee crisis in Central America, an economic crisis caused by the pandemic and then a crisis in our immigration system where we have way more demand than we have ability to adjudicate cases,” Meade said.
“If you put all that together, you’ve got some really desperate people who don’t feel like they can wait and very little opportunity for them to come in a safer way.”
The USD Professor noted migrants are targeted by smugglers and unaware of the dangers.
“You don’t actually have the tools to make a rational risk assessment," Meade said. "What you have is a low level representative of organized crime coming to you and offering you a service.”
Passengers on previous boats were identified as Mexican and Guatemalan nationals. There's no word on where this latest group came from.