IMPERIAL BEACH (KGTV and CNS) - A maritime human smuggling run turned deadly off the coast of southern San Diego County early Monday when a boat occupied by undocumented immigrants capsized in heavy surf, authorities reported.
Federal officers staffing the Joint Harbor Operation Center in San Diego spotted the suspicious vessel headed north in rough seas in the Imperial Beach area about 2:30 a.m., seemingly beset by engine trouble, according to the U.S. Border Patrol.
As the craft was thrashed by large waves, two of the seven Mexican nationals in the boat jumped in the water and swam toward shore, after which the boat capsized, USBP Agent Jarrett Decker said.
Border Patrol personnel arrived in the area to find the group of travelers on the beach, two in serious medical distress, Decker said. The agents performed CPR on the pair prior to the arrival of paramedics, who took them to a trauma center.
One of the victims, a 62-year-old man, was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital, and the other, a 44-year-old man was admitted in critical condition.
“We are sadden by the loss of life,” stated U.S. Border Patrol’s (USBP) Chief Patrol Agent Aaron M. Heitke. “The smuggling of humans puts its victims in dangerous and harsh conditions and maritime smuggling is especially dangerous, as we saw in this incident.”
The other five men in the group were taken into custody for being illegally present in the United States and transported to a nearby Border Patrol Station for processing. One of them, the 51-year-old operator of the boat, was arrested on suspicion of human smuggling. The suspect's name was not released.