The U.S. Coast Guard on Monday suspended its response to an overturned vessel that shattered in the rough waters off San Diego. A total of 32 people have been found after a “severely overcrowded” boat overturned on Sunday morning in a suspected smuggling incident, officials said.
“Yesterday we were reminded again how dangerous these ocean smuggling attempts can be and we will continue to work with our local, state and federal partners to prevent, detect and respond to cases like this to to ensure the safety of San Diego’s waters. Said Captain Timothy Barelli of the Coast Guard.
Twenty-nine people survived, five of whom were hospitalized, the Coast Guard said on Monday. One remains in critical condition. Three people have been declared dead by the San Diego County medical examiner. The Coast Guard previously said four people died.
A Coast Guard cutter had searched the waters in the area overnight.
“Every indication from our point of view was that it was a contraband ship,” Jeff Stephenson, a spokesman for US customs and border protection, said at a press conference on Sunday. afternoon. The alleged smuggler was in custody, he said.
Rick Romero, the City of San Diego’s lieutenant rescuer, said there was “a wide variety of injuries,” including hypothermia. Rescuers carried out seven water rescues and one cliff rescue. There was a major trauma and three CPRs at the scene. He said many people could walk to an ambulance.
“Our goal was just to save everyone we can from the water and get down to the beach and transport them safely to the hospital as quickly as possible,” Romero said.
The lieutenant said conditions in the ocean “were quite rough” with 5 to 6 feet of surf. He said the 40-foot cabin cruiser “slowly disintegrated” when it hit the ocean reef, and several people were sucked out to sea by the rip currents.
Officials have not disclosed the origin of the boat or the nationality of those involved in the accident. There was no manifesto on the ship, making it impossible to know the total number of people on board, officials said.
Stephenson said the boat was not an open bow panga boat that is often used to smuggle people into the United States from Mexico. The captain was probably trying to blend in with the commercial shipping traffic in the area, he said.
“The smugglers don’t care about the people they exploit,” Stephenson said. “All they care about is profit. To them all these people are just commodities.”
A total of 96 personnel responded to the incident, officials said, including personnel from the Coast Guard, U.S. Border Protection, U.S. Park Rangers and the U.S. Department of the Interior.
Officials said the emergency was located near the Cabrillo National Monument in Point Loma, about 130 miles south of Los Angeles. A federal investigation is underway. Smugglers usually face federal charges and those who are smuggled are usually deported, according to the Associated Press.