05 May A Failed Smuggling Operation Leaves 3 Dead and 24 Injured
On Sunday, an overcrowded, 40-foot wide cabin cruiser was overturned off the coast of San Diego, leaving three dead and 24 injured. While a major rescue mission was launched to retrieve the survivors from the sea, officials stated that the boat was being used as a smuggling vessel to smuggle immigrants into the US.
The incident took place near Cabrillo National Monument at 10:15 am, when coast guards and other officials responded to the reports of an overturned low-slung punga near the rocky peninsula of Point Loma.
Lt. Rick Romero from San Diego Lifeguard Services said that they were able to pull seven people out of the sea, out of which three were already dead. He also stated that the conditions were pretty worse when they reached the scene, with debris all around and the boat completely broken apart.
The victims of this incident were transported to the hospital. While most were not severely injured, some are still under critical care.
A video, showing the vessel broken apart, was shared by a Twitter user. The video also shows victims, helping themselves to get to safety. Moreover, although officials believed that everyone on the boat was accounted, crews in boats and aircrafts searched the area for several hours to find any possible survivor.
Reportedly, Punga is considered a vessel to smuggle illegal immigrants into America. Although the nationality and other personal information have not yet been collected from the victims, officials have said they are keeping the captain under custody. Aaron M. Heitke, Chief patrol Agent, referred to this incident as a “suspected maritime smuggling event.”
In fact, last Thursday, border control agents intercepted another Punga, carrying 21 Mexican citizens without any legal documents to enter the US legally.
At an afternoon press, a supervisory border patrol agent said crossing the border is always risky, no matter the method, especially through the sea. He also stated that these smugglers don’t care about the people. To them, these people are just commodities they are willing to exploit. Moreover, as warm weather enters San Diego, there’s an increasing misconception that crossing the border during this time is safer. Last week, police found more than 90 people in Southwestern Houston who are suspected of being part of a human smuggling operation.
SOURCES- BBC & Fox News