19 rescued after panga catches fire off San Clemente Island

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SAN CLEMENTE, Calif. — Border Patrol agents rescued 19 people whose boat caught fire Tuesday, leading some of them to swim ashore at a Navy training facility on San Clemente Island.

U.S. Border Patrol agents got a call around 6:45 p.m. on Oct. 13 about four people who swam ashore at the Naval Auxiliary Landing Field. The island is a research and development facility with a live firing range.

Agents said they determined the four people were passengers on a panga, a small boat commonly used for human smuggling. They told agents the boat’s engine caught fire, causing some passengers to swim ashore. They said others rowed the boat to shore.

Border Patrol’s Border, Search, Trauma, and Rescue team worked with the U.S. Coast Guard and Navy to find the other passengers. Navy personnel found three while Border Patrol enlisted help from search and rescue K-9s. Nineteen people were located.

The group was made up of 16 men and three women between 17 and 45 years old. Border Patrol agents said they were Mexican nationals suspected of trying to enter the U.S. illegally.

One man complained of abdominal pain and was flown to the Naval Air Station North Island then taken to a local hospital for treatment. Agents treated four other people in the group for minor injuries.

Eighteen people were taken to Ballast Point and turned over to Border Patrol agents. Two men face smuggling charges, agents said.

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