The Border Patrol, Coast Guard and other agencies have warned that a worrying spike in maritime smuggling could have dire consequences following an alleged smuggling operation that killed at least three people off the San Diego coast on Sunday.
The agencies announced Friday that they will spend additional resources on land, sea and coastal air patrols (helicopters and planes) through Monday. A rescue operation began near the Cabrillo National Memorial on Sunday when an overloaded cabin cruiser sank into rough seas.
Rescuers found a huge field of strewn wood debris and personal effects. Seven people were pulled out of the rising waters; Three did not survive. One was rescued from a hill and 22 made it to shore. Twenty-seven people were taken to the hospital with hypothermia or other injuries.
San Diego Lifeguard Services Lt. Rick Romero said the people drowning there were drowning and sucking current. The ship is basically wrecked.
An alleged smuggler was arrested. Traffickers generally face federal charges against traffickers and people are sent home during trafficking.
Two days ago, Aaron Height, chief patrol agent for the United States Border Patrol in the San Diego sector, was warned about a dramatic increase in hacking efforts.
Hitt warned that these illegal sea crossings are inherently dangerous, and that we’ve seen many go from risky to tragic as smugglers abandon the safety of those on board for profit.
San Diego capsizes ship: three dead in alleged smuggling operation, two hospitalized
The agencies say spring and summer weather brings more recreational boat traffic, and a misconception that warmer weather will make illegal crossings safer or easier, the agencies said. Haight was told that San Diego residents will see an increase in various law enforcement and public safety agencies, including beaches and marinas, and along the entire San Diego coastline along the San Diego coast.
On Thursday, 21 people were arrested while sailing in a small wooden boat 11 miles offshore. Two people face federal smuggling charges.
Ann Michael Montgomery, the chief of customs and border protection in San Diego, chief of air and maritime operations, said smugglers are generally not told how dangerous the journey really is, that they could reach the sea a little further. Boats without adequate power, water, protection from protective equipment or components.
San Diego Coast Guard Sector Commander Capt Timothy Bareilly said Friday that protecting suspected human trafficking at sea is both rescue and law enforcement.
He said there is a serious risk of capsizing, hypothermia and drowning.
‘She was living her life’: Mother of 4 dies in fatal accident near US-Mexico border
Two days later, she realized the worst situation.
Jeff Stephenson, the supervising agent for the US Border Patrol, said Sunday that the reality is that the method of crossing the border illegally, especially seawater, is safe no matter what. Smugglers don’t actually just exploit them because they worry about lining their pockets for profit.
Contributed by: Eleanor Aspgren, USA Today; Associated Press
This article was originally published in the United States today: ‘People Drowning’: Within days of the traffic crackdown, 3 people were killed and 2 injured while sailing in San Diego.