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19 people rescued after panga boat engine catches fire off San Clemente Island

Posted at 1:21 PM, Oct 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-16 16:21:40-04

(KGTV) — Border officials say 19 people were rescued after the engine of the panga boat they were on caught fire near San Clemente Island this week.

The shipwreck happened on Tuesday when a boat carrying 19 undocumented migrants became disabled just before 7 p.m. Four people abandoned the panga boat and swam to shore at Naval Auxiliary Landing Field on San Clemente Island.

After the four people were questioned, they were identified as passengers on the panga boat and part of a human smuggling operation. The four people also indicated other passengers had paddled the damaged boat to the island's shore and got off.

The next day, at about 6:30 a.m., a helicopter lifted to search for the remaining individuals, who were all found by about 5 p.m. The group consisted of 16 men and three women, all between the ages of 17 and 45, and all Mexican nationals illegally in the U.S.

One man complained of abdominal pain and was taken to the Naval Air Station North Island, and then a local hospital for treatment. An additional four people were treated by border agents for minor injuries.

Two men face human smuggling charges. The remaining individuals were turned over to Border patrol for processing.