8 dead after migrant vessels capsized off San Diego coast
"This is one of the worst smuggling tragedies that I can think of in California, certainly here in the city of San Diego," said San Diego Fire-Rescue Lifeguard Division Chief James Gartland
March 13, 2023 7:54am
Updated: March 13, 2023 3:21pm
At least eight individuals died after two fishing boats capsized in an apparent migrant smuggling operation off the coast of San Diego, California in one of the deadliest smuggling operations ever, authorities said on Sunday.
San Diego emergency responders received a 911 call on Saturday evening from a Spanish speaker on one of the boats reporting that the vessel had overturned off the coast of Black’s Beach, about 15 miles (24 kilometers) from downtown San Diego, at around 11:30 p.m.
When responders arrived, they found two fishing boats that had capsized. At least eight bodies were recovered from the water and the nearby beach, said San Diego Fire-Rescue Lifeguard Division Chief James Gartland.
"This is one of the worst smuggling tragedies that I can think of in California, certainly here in the city of San Diego," Gartland said.
According to authorities, hazardous weather conditions, including heavy fog, likely contributed to the capsizing. The weather also made the rescue efforts difficult.
At least 15 individuals were on one of the boats and eight on the other. The U.S. Coast Guard and the San Diego Fire-Rescue Lifeguard division announced on Sunday evening that they were suspending the search for additional survivors or bodies.
However, survivors might have escaped on land, authorities added.
“That area is very hazardous, even in the daytime,” Gartland said at a news conference. “It has a series of sandbars and in-shore rip currents, so you can think that you can land in some sand or get to waist-high, knee-high water and think that you’re able to be safe to exit the water, but there’s long, in-shore holes. If you step into those holes, those rip currents will pull you along the shore and back out to sea.”
The victims have yet to be identified. However, officials said they were all adults.