Coast Guard suspends search where suspected smuggling boat capsized

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SAN DIEGO — The U.S. Coast Guard suspended its search for survivors Monday after a suspected smuggling boat capsized off the coast of Point Loma, leading to three deaths and dozens of rescues.

Crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Haddock continued searching through the night as officials worked to verify the number of people on the vessel. The Coast Guard said it was contacted by a tow company around 10 a.m. Sunday about a boat that capsized on the rocks near the Point Loma Tide Pools in the Cabrillo National Monument.

Items from a boat sit on the shoreline at Cabrillo National Monument near where it capsized just off the San Diego coast Sunday, May 2, 2021, in San Diego. Authorities say two people were killed and nearly two dozen others were hospitalized after the boat capsized. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)

Video showed the boat’s passengers trying to climb to safety as waves battered the 40-foot trawler-style vessel. Some passengers tried to stay afloat by grabbing onto debris scattered in the water.

The Coast Guard suspended its search Monday morning and said 32 people were accounted for. Three people were declared dead by the San Diego County medical examiner, including a 41-year-old woman, a 35-year-old woman and a man of unknown age, records show.

Five of the 29 survivors were taken to the hospital, where one remains in critical condition. The Coast Guard previously reported 29 people were accounted for with four declared dead by first responders.

“Yesterday, we were once again reminded how dangerous these ocean smuggling attempts can be and we will continue to work with our local, state and federal partners to prevent, detect and respond to cases like this to keep the waters of San Diego safe and secure,” Captain Timothy Barelli, the Sector San Diego commander, said.

The San Diego Fire-Rescue Department said more than 100 emergency workers rushed to the area for the rescue effort, with eight fire engines, 10 medics and other local personnel responding alongside members of the U.S. Coast Guard and other agencies.

The incident is still under investigation.

Professor Ev Meade with the Kroc School of Peace Studies at University of San Diego told FOX 5 he finds the rise in human smuggling ties with global conditions.

“I think desperation is exactly the right word and it’s something that we’ve seen in repeated incidents,” Meade said. “I do think it has to do with the pandemic and the fact that you have a bunch of desperate people in an economic situation that’s much worse in their home countries than it is here. That’s a big part of this.”

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