At least eight people were killed when two suspected smuggling boats approached a San Diego beach and one capsized, authorities said. Crews were searching on Sunday for an estimated seven additional victims.
A woman on one of the panga-style boats called 911 late on Saturday to report that the other vessel overturned in waves off Black’s Beach, US coast guard petty officer Richard Brahm said.
“The woman who called stated that the boat that overturned had 15 people on it, but that was just an estimate,” Brahm said.
Coast guard and San Diego fire-rescue crews pulled eight bodies from the water but thick fog hampered the search for more. A coast guard cutter combed the area early on Sunday and officials hoped to get helicopters in the air when weather improved, Brahm said.
Daniel Eddy, the San Diego fire-rescue deputy chief of operations, said there was a long debris field on Black’s Beach. Black’s Beach is jointly owned by the city of San Diego and the state. The stretch of sand is also known as Torrey Pines city beach and Torrey Pines state beach.
Coast guard petty officer Eddie Berrios confirmed that eight people died and teams were searching for at least seven more. He did not know what kind of boats were involved but said pangas, small open boats with outboard engines used in smuggling operations, often come ashore there.
Brahm did not know if anyone on the second boat was injured or whether they were apprehended by the US border patrol.
It was unclear if arrests were made and the nationalities of the passengers was unknown. Illegal crossings have soared under Joe Biden, many migrants turning themselves in and being released in the US to pursue cases in immigration court.
A pandemic rule scheduled to end on 11 May denies migrants a chance to seek asylum on grounds of preventing the spread of Covid-19 but enforcement has fallen disproportionately on Mexicans, Hondurans, Guatemalans and El Salvadorans because those are the only nationalities Mexico has agreed to take back.
People from those four countries have been more likely to try to elude capture, knowing they are likely to be expelled under the public health rule, known as Title 42. Mexico recently began taking in Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans under Title 42.
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