Four people were killed and over two dozen injured after a boat suspected of trying to smuggle migrants into the U.S. capsized near the coast of San Diego, California, on Sunday, Reuters reported.
Several agencies including local police, Homeland Security Investigations and the National Parks Service responded to rescue at least 29 people from the wreckage, according to the Coast Guard. Four of those initially encountered were dead and one was in critical condition.
Multiple people were taken to local hospitals and search and rescue operations were conducted, a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) official told the Daily Caller News Foundation Monday.
“When we arrived on the scene … there were people in the water, drowning, getting sucked out of the rip current there, there were people on shore,” San Diego Fire–Rescue Lifeguard Lieutenant Rick Romero said.
Some of the people among the wreckage required life-saving efforts on the beach, according to Reuters. The boat was a 40-foot trawler-style vessel transporting around 30 people without adequate safety equipment in overcrowded conditions.
“Every indication from our perspective is that this was a smuggling vessel, used to smuggle migrants into the United States illegally,” Border Patrol Agent Jeff Stephenson said, Reuters reported.
The boat’s captain was taken into custody and spoke with investigators, Reuters reported. Maritime smuggling has increased recently, though the boat involved in the accident held more people and was larger than most others used to smuggle migrants into the U.S., officials said.
“While the incident initially appears consistent with maritime smuggling events, U.S. Border Patrol agents have not determined citizenship, legal status in the U.S., or other identifying information at this time,” a CBP official told the DCNF.
CBP Air and Marine Operations encountered another boat attempting to smuggle 21 people from Mexico into the U.S. in the same area Thursday. CBP officials announced an increased presence around San Diego, California, over the weekend and urged potential illegal migrants and smugglers to consider the dangers of illegal entry at sea.
“We’ve seen a dramatic increase in the number of maritime smuggling attempts recently,” U.S. Border Patrol San Diego Chief Aaron Heitke said in a statement. “All of these illegal crossings at sea are inherently dangerous, and we have seen too many turn from risky to tragic as smugglers sacrifice the safety of those on board for the sake of profits.”
The Coast Guard did not respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.