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13 rescued in San Diego after Mexican smuggling boat capsizes

A panga that officials said was being used to smuggle people into the country capsized in Sunset Cliffs early Monday; 15 people were detained and turned over to Border Patrol agents. (U.S. Border Patrol/TNS)

Thirteen people were rescued by lifeguards off a San Diego beach early Monday after a suspected smuggling boat capsized in the surfline. Two others were found atop a nearby cliff, officials said.

The vessel, an estimated 20-foot-long panga, was spotted in the Sunset Cliffs section shortly before 7 a.m.

“As they were coming into the beach, they got caught in a wave and basically the front end sank, causing the boat to pitch over and capsize,” said San Diego Lifeguard Services Lt. Rick Romero. “When we arrived on scene, the boat was upside down and there were people on the secluded beach there.”

Border Patrol agents set up a perimeter and arrested two people who had climbed up the cliffs from the beach. The remaining 13 people stayed on the beach where the tide was rising.

Lifeguards, responding with two boats and a jet ski, went to check on the condition of the people on the sand and found that no one was injured. They then used the jet ski to transport the group onto a U.S. Coast Guard vessel, a large platform boat.

Once all the people were removed from the beach and transported onto the boat, they were taken to Ballast Point in Point Loma, where they were met by Border Patrol agents, officials said.

Agents determined that 12 Mexican men, two Mexican women and one Honduran man, ranging in age from 19 to 57, were aboard the panga and all 15 were in the U.S. illegally, said Border Patrol spokesman Jarrett Decker.

The group was taken to a local Border Patrol station for further processing.


© 2020 The San Diego Union-Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.