ENCINITAS, Calif. — Border Patrol agents arrested more than a dozen people in North County early Saturday after a smuggling boat washed ashore, prompting an extensive manhunt.
The panga was first reported by a resident when they spotted it on Leucadia Beach in Encinitas shortly before 4 a.m. Agents arrived a short time later, and they spotted several people running away in different directions.
They left behind the small fishing boat and 16 life vests. Some of the agents headed north while others headed south, and ultimately an “extensive search” turned up all 16, Border Patrol said.
The entire group was determined to be Mexican citizens who had entered the country unlawfully, according to agents, and they were taken to a station to go through the process of being removed from the U.S. U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized the vessel.
Agents found a second panga Saturday near Sunset Cliffs after getting a call around 9:30 a.m. Sixteen lifejackets and six empty fuel barrels were found on the beach near the abandoned panga. Seven men from Mexico believed to be in the country illegally were found nearby and taken into custody.
Border Patrol said agents have responded to 302 maritime incidents so far this year.