At least two people have died and 27 were hospitalized when a boat overturned on Sunday off the coast of San Diegocoast, firefighters said.
The U.S. Coast Guard and other agencies responded around 10:30 a.m. to the Cabrillo National Monument following reports of a ship overturned near the Point Loma Peninsula, according to the San Diego Fire Department.
They rescued 25 people during a “multi-wounded medical” incident, SDFD said on twitter, although they later said in a statement that 24 people were pulled from the water. At least five of them were in “CPR status,” meaning they were having trouble breathing, spokesman Jose Ysea told the San Diego Union-Tribune.
“It’s very rocky out there, and the waves, although they weren’t too high, looked pretty strong,” he told the newspaper, adding that the boat may have been crashed into the rocks.
Two people did not survive, officials said in a statement, while 27 people were taken to local hospitals.
Ysea told The Associated Press that it was possible the group was packed into a low-slung panga boat, a type of small motorized boat often made of wood used by smugglers to illegally bring people to the United States from the United States. Mexico, but this detail was not confirmed.
Border Patrol often sees pangas off the coast of San Diego.
Federal agencies, including customs and border protection, were still looking for water in ships and planes Sunday afternoon. The incident took place within federal water jurisdiction, KGTV reported.
Cabrillo National Monument is a California historic monument commemorating the first time a European expedition landed on what has become the West Coast of the United States.
Border patrol said on Friday that law enforcement officials would step up operations to disrupt maritime smuggling in the region this weekend. Border authorities on Thursday intercepted a panga-type vessel traveling without navigation lights 18 kilometers off the coast of Point Loma with 21 people on board.
Officers determined that all were Mexican citizens without legal status to enter the United States, according to a statement released by Customs and Border Protection.
The area has also seen several boat incidents in recent years.
In July, an amphibious assault ship caught fire at Naval Station San Diego, causing an onboard explosion that injured 63 people and filled the sky with black smoke, officials said.
And in August, another amphibious assault ship sank on San Clemente Island in the region, killing nine service members.
Contribute: The Associated Press