SAN DIEGO (CBSLA) – Authorities Monday suspended their search for survivors following the wreck of an overcrowded smuggling boat Sunday morning off San Diego’s coastline that left at least four dead and several more injured.
The wreck was reported at 10 a.m. Sunday off Point Loma in San Diego, after a 40-foot trawler-style boat capsized on the rocks.
Cell phone video taken immediately following the crash showed people jumping off the boat in rough ocean conditions before the vessel broke apart on the reef.
At least 32 people have been accounted for so far, the Coast Guard reported Monday. Of those four died. Of the 29 who survived, five were taken to local hospitals — one of whom died Monday.
The boat was believed to be smuggling migrants to the U.S. The captain of the boat is now in Border Patrol custody, and survivors were being interviewed by Border Patrol agents.
“Every indication, from our perspective, is that this was a smuggling vessel used to smuggle migrants into the United States illegally,” Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Jeffery Stephenson said in a news conference Sunday afternoon.
Authorities said the response got bigger as rescuers arrived on scene and witnessed the scope of the accident.
“Once we arrived on scene, the boat had been basically broken apart,” San Diego Fire-Rescue Lifeguard Lt. Rick Romero said Sunday.
Multiple federal and local agencies were called in.
“The first report from the commercial assistance vessel was three, four people with PFDs (person floatation devices) waiting for help,” Romero said. “That turned into much more people as we started getting on scene and analyzing the scene. There were people in the water drowning, getting sucked out the rip current there. There was people on the shore, there were reports of CPR in progress down below with multiple people injured. We had two jet skis, three rescue boats coming.”
Seven people were picked up in the water, two of whom had drowned.
“Once we saw it was going to be a bigger situation, more people, the numbers kept on increasing, we called for more resources,” Romero said.
Since October of last year, the San Diego Sector of Border Patrol has documented 158 maritime smuggling attempts of humans or drugs.
The Coast Guard suspended its search Monday morning after canvassing the waters overnight. The agency is investigating the cause of the wreck.
The Mexican Consulate, meanwhile, released a statement Monday which read, in part:
“At this moment, the nationality of the victims has not been confirmed, the government of Mexico through its consulate in San Diego is following any developments and will keep in contact with the authorities involved to assist any victims of Mexican origin and their families.”
The deadly boat crash comes just days after Border Patrol announced it would be ramping up operations off the San Diego coast to stop maritime human smuggling.
“It is a powerful and unfortunately tragic example of the manner in which human smugglers exploit vulnerable individuals,” Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of Homeland security, said Monday of the crash. “One should not take the dangerous journey.”