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One Dead, 15 In Custody After Suspected Smuggling Boat Dropped Passengers Off La Jolla Coast

A small boat used during a suspected human smuggling operation sits on La Jolla beach in San Diego, on Thursday, May 20, 2021. Authorities said multiple people believed to have been aboard the boat were rescued from the ocean along the San Diego coast early Thursday.
Associated Press
A small boat used during a suspected human smuggling operation sits on La Jolla beach in San Diego, on Thursday, May 20, 2021. Authorities said multiple people believed to have been aboard the boat were rescued from the ocean along the San Diego coast early Thursday.
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.

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.

One Dead, 15 In Custody After Suspected Smuggling Boat Dropped Passengers Off La Jolla Coast
Listen to this story by Melissa Mae.

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.

San Diego firefighters and lifeguards at the site of a panga boat rescue in La Jolla, May 20, 2021.
San Diego Fire-Rescue Department
San Diego firefighters and lifeguards at the site of a panga boat rescue in La Jolla, May 20, 2021.

READ: Panga Boat Carrying 23 People Discovered Off Coast Of Point Loma

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.

VIDEO: One Dead, 15 In Custody After Suspected Smuggling Boat Dropped Passengers Off La Jolla Coast

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.

University of San Diego Professor, Ev Meade explains why migrants are getting desperate.

“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.