SAN DIEGO — Eight people are dead after two suspected smuggling boats overturned near Black’s Beach overnight, authorities said.
Lifeguards responded to an area near the beach after receiving a 9-1-1 call around 11:30 p.m. Saturday, according to San Diego Fire-Rescue Department spokeswoman Mónica Muñoz.
The Spanish-speaking caller reported two vessels, one carrying eight people and another carrying approximately 15 had overturned, San Diego Lifeguard Chief James Garland said during a Sunday morning news conference.
When lifeguards and Customs and Border Protection officers arrived, they found a total of eight bodies and two capsized boats, SDFD said. Lifeguards also found several lifejackets and fuel barrels.
No survivors were found, but people may have left the beach before authorities arrived, Garland said.
Agencies were still searching the area Sunday morning and planned to continue into the afternoon.
It was not immediately clear what caused the capsizing or what the passengers’ nationalities were, Garland said.
“This is one of the worst maritime smuggling tragedies that I can think of in California, certainly here in the city of San Diego,” Garland said.
“This is not necessarily people trying to find a better life,” Capt. James Spitler, sector commander for Coast Guard San Diego, said during the news conference. “This is part of a transnational criminal organization effort to smuggle people into the United States. These people are often labor-trafficked and sex-trafficked when they arrive. Again, it was a tragedy — we offer our condolences.”