SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Border Patrol agents, Coast Guard personnel and San Diego Lifeguards converged on the south side of Crystal Pier in Pacific Beach Thursday morning after a report of a panga boat coming ashore with as many as 25 people onboard.
Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Michael Scappechio told 10News one witness reported seeing the group run from the boat at about 6:30 a.m. to a number of waiting vehicles that took them away. No description of those vehicles was given.
The boat, approximately 25 feet long, rested on the sand. Several life jackets were left behind as well as several sunglasses.
Scappechio said it appeared to be a human smuggling operation with no sign of illegal drugs.
10News spoke to a man vacationing at Crystal Pier Cottages who believes he was awakened by the sound of the boat being dragged ashore.
"I heard something," said Mike Scott, from Nevada, "It sounded like a metallic sound. I guess that's a fiberglass boat, but something being dragged."
Scappechio said maritime smuggling operations almost always coordinate with crews on land and will adjust where they come ashore if there's any sign of authorities.
Scappechio said pangas are designed to carry about six people on short-range fishing trips. So, if it's true this boat was packed with two dozen, that's extremely dangerous.
This smuggling incident comes just one day after a similar panga boat came ashore at Ponto Beach in Carlsbad. In that incident, 19 undocumented immigrants were apprehended.
"As security tightens along the land border as it is now, especially here in San Diego with the reconstruction of the border infrastructure, we may expect an increase in maritime smuggling. So, we want to make sure we address this thing before it gets out of control,” said Scappechio.