8 Are Dead, 7 Missing After Boat Capsizes Off San Diego

Officials suspect accident happened during a smuggling operation
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 12, 2023 12:05 PM CDT
8 Are Dead, 7 Missing After Boats Capsize Off San Diego
A row of life jackets sits Sunday on Black's Beach in San Diego.   (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

At least eight people were killed when two suspected smuggling boats approached a San Diego beach and one capsized, and crews are searching Sunday for an estimated seven additional victims, authorities said. A woman on one of the panga-style boats called 911 late Saturday to report that the other vessel had overturned in waves off Black's Beach, said US Coast Guard Petty Officer Richard Brahm. "The woman who called stated that the boat that overturned had 15 people on it, but that was just an estimate," Brahm said, per the AP.

Coast Guard and San Diego Fire-Rescue crews pulled eight bodies from the water, but thick fog hampered the search for additional victims. A Coast Guard cutter combed the area early Sunday, and officials hoped to get helicopters in the air when weather improves, Brahm said. Daniel Eddy of San Diego Fire-Rescue said there was a long debris field on Black's Beach, which 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 said pangas—small open boats with outboard engines used in smuggling operations—often come ashore there.

The nationalities of the passengers and whether any arrests were made were not clear, per the AP. A pandemic rule scheduled to end May 11 denies migrants a chance to seek US asylum on grounds of preventing the spread of COVID-19, but enforcement has fallen disproportionately on Mexicans, Hondurans, Guatemalans, and El Salvadorans because those have been the only nationalities Mexico agreed to take back. As a result, people of 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 authority. Mexico recently began taking back Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans under Title 42.

(More San Diego stories.)

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