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Suspected smuggling boat overturns, killing three people


Last updated 5/2/2021 at 9:52pm

SAN DIEGO - Border Patrol officials said a 40-foot cabin cruiser that overturned in Point Loma today, killing three people, was suspected of

being part of a smuggling operation.

Three people died and 27 people were pulled from the water and hospitalized with a wide range of injuries after the boat capsized, officials


The accident happened at about 10:30 a.m. Sunday in ocean waters off the Cabrillo National Monument. Border Patrol officials said the boat crashed

into the shoreline surrounding the monument and capsized. Eventually, all aboard the boat jumped in the water as it slowly disintegrated, a bystander's

video of the sinking boat showed.

The boat was probably being used to transport undocumented people into the United States, according to Jeffery Stephenson of the Customs and

Border Protection Public Affairs Office.

``It was a smuggling vessel,'' Stephenson said at a Sunday afternoon press briefing. ``Border Patrol agents are with a man we believe was the


``Smugglers don't care about the people they're exploiting,'' he said. ``All they care about is profit. They had inadequate safety equipment and

obviously this vessel was severely overcrowded.''

San Diego lifeguards conducted seven water rescues and one cliff rescue, said James Gartland, lifeguard chief.

``This was a mass rescue operation that turned into a mass casualty event,'' Gartland said. There was one major trauma and three people were

treated with CPR, he said.

Gartland said the incident was probably the worst tragedy he has seen in his 26 years in the lifeguard service.

``It's a tragic event here in San Diego,'' Gartland said. ``The lifeguards performed excellent,'' the chief said. ``We train for

this exact type of incident. It was an excellent effort by all the rescuers and responders who showed up today.''

San Diego Fire-Rescue Department personnel, lifeguards, U.S. Coast Guard boats and aircraft and Customs and Border Protection air support were

still in the area Sunday afternoon searching for other possible victims.

The 27 people who were rescued were taken to a variety of local hospitals, including Sharp Memorial, Palomar Medical Center West, Alvarado,

UCSD Medical Center in Hillcrest, Grossmont Hospital, Kaiser Clairemont Mesa, Kaiser Zion and Paradise Valley Hospital, the SDFRD said.

SDFRD firefighters and lifeguards, along with federal firefighters, U.S. Coast Guard and other local agencies worked together on the accident.

About 96 personnel were assigned to the rescue, including medics, fire engine crews and a chaplain.

Copyright 2021, City News Service, Inc.


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