SAN DIEGO — More than a dozen people were stranded on the beach in Point Loma after a smuggling boat capsized in rough waters Monday morning, Border Patrol said.
A surfer spotted the panga getting tossed around in the waves and called 911 around 7 a.m., prompting a major operation by lifeguards, Border Patrol and the U.S. Coast Guard.
Rescuers found 13 people on the sand below Point Loma Nazarene University, surrounded by sheer cliff, San Diego Fire-Rescue Lt. Rick Romero said. Border Patrol later confirmed they found two more people trying to climb the cliffs. All 15 were arrested.
Lifeguards and a Coast Guard vessel searched the water for anyone else who may have been struggling to swim to shore, but found no other passengers.
Pangas are low-lying fishing boats with outboard motors that are frequently used to sneak people or drugs into the U.S. A Border Patrol spokesperson confirmed the boat was part of a “maritime smuggling incident,” but did not release further details.
Eventually, lifeguards loaded people one-by-one onto the back of a personal watercraft and carried them out to a larger boat at sea. It was the most practical way to get them to safety, as the stretch of coast where the panga landed did not have any easy access points, Romero explained.
No one was seriously injured, Romero said. Once they cleared a medical check, all 15 people were turned over to Border Patrol.