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Eight people killed as suspected smuggling boats capsize off San Diego coast



Authorities in California have confirmed that 8 people after two boats capsized just off the shore.  

The San Diego Fire Department and emergency officials received a 911 emergency call at around 11.30pm local time on Saturday night.

The caller, who authorities believed was a native Spanish speaker, said that two boats had overturned near the access route to Black’s Beach.  

Lifeguards, US Customs and Border Patrol and the US Coast Guard were dispatched to Black’s Beach where one boat, carrying eight people, made it to shore, while another panga boat, which had been carrying 15 people, “overturned in the surf,” said Capt. James Spitler, who is the sector commander for the US Coast Guard in San Diego.

“We arrived in rescue mode. We did the best we could to recover people from the water, try and find survivors,” Gartland, who is the lifeguard chief for the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department said. “The lifeguards, after about an hour of searching and recovering bodies, we were in recovery mode for about five hours after that.”


The Fire Department said that rescuers had to wade through “knee to waist deep water” to get to the beach due to a high tide.

Garland confirmed that when authorities made it to the scene, both boats were already capsized.

Garland also said that the eight people who were deceased were all adults.  Some of the passengers died in the water and some died on the beach.  Garland noted that their nationalities have not yet been confirmed.

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.

At approximately 3.30pm on Sunday, the US Coast Guard said it suspended the search for any survivors, “pending further developments.” 


Garland also confirmed to CNN that none of those found deceased were wearing a life jacket.

“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.”

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