(RockedBuzz via Reuters) – At least eight people have died after two fishing boats capsized off the coast of San Diego, California, in an apparent migrant smuggling operation, emergency officials said on Sunday.
San Diego emergency crews began a search and recovery operation late Saturday night after receiving a 911 call from a Spanish speaker about fishing boats in distress off the coast of San Diego’s Black’s Beach.
Crews arrived to find two fishing boats capsized in a 400-foot (366m) area and eight bodies were recovered from the water and beach, the firefighters’ lifeguards division chief said. San Diego James Gartland.
“This is one of the worst bootlegging tragedies I can think of in California, certainly here in the city of San Diego,” Gartland said.
Officials did not know the nationality of the victims but told reporters they were all adults.
The dangerous weather conditions likely contributed to the endangerment of the maritime smuggling operation and also hampered overnight rescue efforts, officials said. The U.S. Coast Guard and the San Diego Fire Department’s Lifeguard Division were still involved in the recovery operation late Sunday morning.
Eric Lavergne, special operations supervisor with the US Border Patrol in San Diego, said this was one of a few hundred migrant smuggling events recorded in his jurisdiction this fiscal year, which is in line with the rate in recent years.
These have included incidents of migrants swimming, riding surfboards or taking panga trawlers across the United States, he said.
(Reporting by Rami Ayyub and Gabriella Borter; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Bill Berkrot)