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Over a dozen people seen jumping from smuggling boat at Mission Beach

Posted at 7:17 AM, Feb 09, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-09 10:21:45-05

MISSION BEACH, Calif. (KGTV) – It was a wild sight near the water at South Mission Beach on Wednesday afternoon.

“Nothing like this. Well, like I thought at first it was a lifeguard training or something. Then it started escalating just getting more and more chaotic,” said beach visitor Michelle Sanora.

Beachgoers and lifeguards saw a boat, which U.S. Border Patrol officials described as a smuggling boat, barreling towards the shoreline at Mission Beach. Moments later, more than a dozen people jumping off the watercraft.

“Just turn and start going towards the sand. It stopped, and then 15 to 20 people just got out of the boat and just started running out towards the lifeguard tower,” Sanora said.

“So it was basically a smuggling event. No one was hurt. No one was rescued, as far as our end. People just took off and left,” said San Diego Fire-Rescue Lifeguard Lt. Rick Romero.

U.S. Border Patrol officials told ABC 10News in a statement: “At approximately 3:30 p.m., San Diego Lifeguards contacted the U.S. Coast Guard Joint Harbor Operations Center regarding a beached vessel at South Mission Beach. Witnesses reported seeing individuals exit and run from a 40-foot Sportfisher, as it beached itself at South Mission. The individuals ran east towards homes located along Mission Blvd. U.S. Border Patrol Agents responded to the area and immediately apprehended five adult Mexican male nationals. Agents remain on scene, as the investigation is ongoing. The vessel is being seized by the United States Border Patrol.”

Sanora, who captured the incident on video, said some people had suspected that was what the boat was being used for.

“Everybody was like, 'Oh, that must be what happened' ... I thought more people would think like, 'Oh, training or something.' That was the immediate reaction,” Sanora said.

Following the chaos, first responders and others had another task at hand.

“We’re just trying to make sure it doesn’t float with the tide coming in and end up capsizing or crashing on the rocks. There’s a couple hundred gallons of gasoline onboard,” Romero said. “And we’re just making sure it doesn’t turn into an environmental event on our beach.”

This wasn’t the only boat found by Border Patrol on Wednesday.

Earlier in the day, agents found an abandoned panga boat in Carlsbad along with 17 life vests.

While Border Patrol’s investigations into these boats continue, you never know what you’ll see at the beach.

“It’s pretty alarming. If it can happen just on a quiet evening on a Wednesday night, it can happen at any time,” Sanora said.