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Four dead and dozens injured after migrant boat capsizes off California coast

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Caption: At least 3 dead and dozens injured after migrant boat capsizes off Californian coast

AFP/KGTV

At least four people were killed and 25 injured when an over-crowded boat full of migrants capsized off the coast of California on Sunday.

The tragic accident happened in waters just off San Diego when the vessel crashed into a reef and broke apart in rough water. Authorities believe the boat was full of illegal immigrants attempting to get into America as part of a human smuggling attempt, reports The San Diego Union-Tribune.

It is ‘one of the bigger vessel accidents’ the local area has ever seen, according to San Diego lifeguard, James Gartland. The organization has said four people died in the wreck, which happened at around 10am, but the exact number of people who were injured remains unclear.

Lifeguard officials believe 25 people were injured, one critically, and many of the passengers have been taken to hospital for treatment.

At least 3 dead migrant boat capsizes off Californian coast

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Photos taken from the shore as the wreck happened shows the boat tipped on its side with at least two people visible on the outside the boat. Other photos of the aftermath show how the 40-foot cabin cruiser was destroyed by a combination of the rocky sea floor and rough waves.

Debris scattered the shoreline as rescue workers sprung into action to save those on board.

Supervisory Border Patrol agent, Jeffery Stephenson, said: ‘Every indication from our perspective is that this was a smuggling vessel used to smuggle migrants into the United States illegally.

‘It’s a tragedy.’

San Diego lifeguards say they received a report of a boat that appeared to be in trouble on Sunday morning and were told it was drifting toward the shoreline, with just one person on board.

As it turned out, however, the cabin cruiser was packed 29 people, according to officials. It’s not yet know where the boat came from and the nationalities of the passengers is still unknown.

The boat was spotted getting into trouble off San Diego on Sunday morning (Picture: KGTV)
Dozens were rescued from the water off the coast of San Diego after a suspected smuggling boat capsized in rough waters (Picture: EPA)

By the time lifeguards arrived at the rocky peninsula, just off Point Loma, the boat had crashed and broken up completely. Officials said while some people made it to shore, others were caught up in a rip current.

‘Conditions were pretty rough, 5 to 6 feet of surf, windy, cold, the water is around 60 degrees’, said San Diego lifeguard, Rick Romero.

The rescue mission saw lifeguards pull seven people from the water, including at least two people who had drowned, Romero added.

He also said that an onlooker, a who is a Navy sailor, jumped into the ocean to help lifeguards rescue as many people as possible.

Among the group of survivors was the suspected operator and smuggler, officials said.

Romero added that there were life vest on board the boat, but it was unclear whether any passengers were wearing them.

Jose Ysea, a San Diego Fire-Rescue Department spokesman, said when he got to the shoreline he saw a large ‘debris field; in the water.

He said: ‘It is very rocky over there, and the waves, while they weren’t too high, they looked pretty strong.’

Border patrol agent, Stephenson, called the smuggling attempt during Sunday’s wild conditions a ‘very dangerous scenario’.

He said: ‘The reality is crossing the border illegally is unsafe no matter the method, especially at sea.

The boats origins and the nationalities of those who were onboard are not yet known (Picture: KGTV)

‘The smugglers really just don’t care about the people they’re exploiting. All they care about is lining their own pocket for profit.

‘Smugglers look for vulnerability they think there is. They’re looking for any method they can to move what they view as a commodity.’

In fiscal 2020, Border Patrol agents detained around 1,200 people for trying to smuggle people into the US, a 92 percent increase compared to fiscal 2019, Stephenson said.

On Thursday, the agency said officials recorded the 157th maritime smuggling incident of fiscal 2021. During that operation officials stopped a boat and detained 21 Mexican nationals,15 men and six women.

In a statement on Sunday’s, the Mexican government officials in San Diego said it was in touch with authorities to assist any victims of Mexican descent and their families.

For more stories like this, check our news page.

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at [email protected].



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