23 people rescued from panga off Sunset Cliffs
The boat was seen off the Point Loma coast shortly before 2:50 a.m. May 17.
Twenty-three people were rescued off what authorities suspected was a smuggling boat intercepted off the coast of Point Loma early May 17.
The boat was spotted shortly before 2:50 a.m. by a video surveillance system operated by the U.S. Border Patrol, officials said. The boat was drifting near rocks off Sunset Cliffs Boulevard near Osprey Street, according to San Diego police.
A Coast Guard cutter responded and deployed a small boat. Its crew tried to make contact with the operator of the panga, but he or she ignored commands to stop, officials said.
OnScene.TV reported that the boat’s engine died.
As the panga drifted closer to shore, it became stuck in the surf line and officials feared it might capsize.
San Diego lifeguards and San Diego Harbor police were summoned and the Coast Guard pulled the panga from the surf line and removed people from the boat.
The 20 men and three women were taken to lifeguard headquarters and the panga was towed there. Border Patrol agents interviewed the passengers and determined that all 23 were in the United States illegally, said Border Patrol Supervisory Agent Jeffrey Stephenson.
He said 20 of the people were from Mexico and three were from Guatemala.
The panga was seized and the investigation is continuing, officials said. Stephenson said the boat’s operator had not yet been identified. The passengers were to be taken to a Border Patrol station and processed, he said.
On May 2, three people were killed when a boat that officials said was being used for smuggling broke apart on the rocks near Cabrillo National Monument in Point Loma.