SAN DIEGO, Calif. — At least eight people died when two suspected smuggling boats approached a San Diego beach and one capsized, and crews were searching for about seven more victims Sunday, authorities said.
A woman on one of the pango-style boats called 911 Saturday night to report that the other vessel had capsized in waves off Blacks Beach, according to U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Richard Bram.
“The female caller stated there were 15 people on the boat that overturned, but that was just an estimate,” Bram said.
The Coast Guard and San Diego Fire-Rescue pulled eight bodies from the water, but heavy fog hampered the search for more victims. A Coast Guard cutter was combing the area early Sunday, and officials hoped to get helicopters in the air when the weather improved, Bram said.
Daniel Eddy, deputy chief of operations for San Diego Fire and Rescue, said Black Beach has a long field of debris. Blacks Beach is jointly owned by the city of San Diego and the state. The stretch of sand is also known as Torrey Pines City Beach and Torrey Pines State Beach.
Coast Guard Petty Officer Eddie Berrias confirmed the death of eight people, and teams are searching for at least seven more. He didn’t know what kind of boats they were, but said pangas – small open boats with outboard motors used in smuggling operations – often come ashore.
Bram did not know if anyone on the other boat was injured or if they were apprehended by the Border Patrol.
It is not yet clear if any arrests have been made and the nationalities of the passengers are unknown. Under President Joe Biden, illegal crossings have skyrocketed, with many migrants turning into Border Patrol agents and being released into the United States to face their cases in immigration court.
The pandemic rule, which is set to expire on May 11, bars migrants from seeking asylum on grounds of preventing the spread of COVID-19, but the application fell disproportionately on Mexicans, Hondurans, Guatemalans and Salvadorans because those were the only nationalities Mexico agreed to take. As a result, residents of those four countries are more likely to try to avoid arrest, knowing they are likely to be deported under public health regulations known as Title 42 powers. Mexico recently began taking back Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans under Sec. 42.
Associated Press writer Christopher Weber contributed from Los Angeles.
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