1 dead, 10 rescued in suspected smuggling incident in La Jolla

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SAN DIEGO — Authorities say one person died and 10 others were pulled from rough surf during a rescue operation involving a suspected smuggling boat in La Jolla early Thursday.

At 5:30 a.m., San Diego lifeguards rushed to 300 Marine Street after getting a call from Border Patrol about multiple people in distress. A Border Patrol spokesperson said an agent spotted a panga heading north off the coast of Point Loma shortly after 5 a.m. and worked to interdict it.


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When Border Patrol got to Marine Street, they saw multiple people in the water. Lifeguards dispatched a boat and rescued 10 people, some wearing life jackets, from the ocean.

#BREAKING: A rescue mission is underway in La Jolla where @SDLifeguards say 15-18 people attempted another smuggling incident by boat. @fox5sandiego pic.twitter.com/scHV7MT0MU

— Jacqueline Sarkissian (@JSarkissian) May 20, 2021

“The conditions out there today were rough, we had 4- to 6-foot surf and we had some heavy currents,” SDFD Marine Safety Captain Maureen Hodges said.

Lifeguards said 15 to 18 people were in the panga, which kept going north toward 700 Coast Blvd. It came to shore in an area called Wipeout Beach, where first responders found someone submerged in the water.


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Lifeguards brought the person onto land, where life-saving efforts were unsuccessful, a fire-rescue department spokesperson said. Others on the boat made landfall on their own, according to Hodges.

Border Patrol agents took 15 people into custody. The agency determined the individuals were unlawfully present in the U.S. and took them to a Border Patrol station for processing, a spokesperson said.

Of the 10 people rescued from the water, eight were taken to four area hospitals, according to lifeguards. San Diego police, lifeguards, Harbor police, the U.S. Coast Guard and Border Patrol responded to the area.

@SDLifeguards rescued 10 off the coast of Marine St. early Thurs. a.m.
Eight transported to local hospitals. SDFD crews, lifeguards and AMR worked together on this multi-casualty incident. One fatality at Wipeout Beach. USBP and USCG also on this incident. pic.twitter.com/H0wRU21uRD

— SDFD (@SDFD) May 20, 2021

The rescue operation came after authorities took 23 people into custody early Monday in another suspected smuggling incident. The captain of a panga refused to stop off the coast of Point Loma, leading to a multi-agency response.

Earlier this month, three people were killed and more than two dozen others were rescued after a boat overturned and broke apart off the coast of Point Loma in a suspected smuggling operation.

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