Black’s Beach in San Diego County, California, is where at least eight individuals perished when two smuggling boats sank. The San Diego Fire-Rescue Department reports that at around 11:30 p.m. local time on Saturday, authorities reacted to a complaint of people in the water from one of the panga boats.
It was reported by a Spanish-speaking woman to 911 that two boats had capsized near the Torrey Pines City Beach entrance to Black’s Beach, according to James Gartland, lifeguard chief for the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, who spoke at a press conference on Sunday.
Capt. James Spitler, sector commander for the US Coast Guard in San Diego, said that while one panga boat with eight people on board made it to shore, another panga boat with fifteen “overturned in the surf.” This prompted the deployment of lifeguards, US Customs and Border Patrol, and US Coast Guard personnel to the beach.
“We arrived in rescue mode. We did the best we could to recover people from the water, try and find survivors,” Gartland said. “The lifeguards, after about an hour of searching and recovering bodies, we were in recovery mode for about five hours after that.”
Firefighters had to first wade through “knee to waist deep water” to reach the beach.
According to Gartland, both boats had capsized when rescuers and federal agents arrived on the scene. Gartland reported that all eight victims were adults, albeit their nationalities were unknown.
As rescuers entered the water, “they started to see the bodies of victims who had drowned, and they started pulling people in, and they also saw some folks washed up on shore,” Gartland told CNN.
Neither the origin of the fatalities nor the cause of the boats’ sinking is known with certainty. Gartland said the weather was foggy, and there was little light when they capsized. Passengers were lost both on the beach and in the ocean.
As of 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, the US Coast Guard said it had called off the search for survivors “pending further developments.” The number of migrants who may remain missing is unknown.
Pending further developments, at 3:30 p.m., Coast Guard Sector San Diego suspend the search for missing migrants from an overturned panga near Black’s Beach.
— USCG Southern California (@USCGSoCal) March 12, 2023
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The area where the boats capsized is hazardous due to a series of sandbars and inshore rip currents that can “pull you along the shore and then back out to sea,” Gartland said.
Gartland’s statement to CNN, nobody found dead was wearing a life vest.
“It’s a world-class surf break here in San Diego,” Gartland said. “But with all the storms we’ve had over the winter, there’s a lot of inshore holes and the rip currents pull very strong, so usually the passengers are wearing a life jacket.”
According to the chief, the passengers may have landed on a sandbar before entering one of the inshore holes, and “… if you are not a strong ocean swimmer, certainly in the middle of the night with those temperatures, it’s a very scary, harrowing and obviously deadly experience.”
Spitler described the event as a “tragedy” and noted an uptick in human trafficking cases around the coast of Southern California since 2017. According to the skipper, twenty-three individuals have died at sea in this area since 2021.
“This is not necessarily people trying to find a better life,” Spitler said, referring to the migrant boats. “This is part of a transnational criminal organization effort to smuggle people into the United States. These people are often labor trafficked, and sex trafficked when they arrive.”
Please refer to the tweet that has been provided for you below for any additional information-
A boat smashed onto a reef and sank in May 2021, killing three persons near the Cabrillo National Monument in Point Loma, San Diego. Thirty-three persons, including the victims’ bodies, were rescued from the water.
Gartland expressed his condolences to the victims’ families, stating, “This is the one of the worst maritime smuggling tragedies that I can think of in California. Certainly, here in the city of San Diego.”
After US Customs and Border Protection’s Air and Marine Operations were called in, the lifeguards could locate an additional body. Officials from the fire department confirmed the bodies had been taken to the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s office.
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