DEL MAR–Following a disrupted maritime smuggling event, local, state, and Federal agencies rescued 13 people and continue to search for three more.
The incident occurred early Friday morning less than one mile off the shore of Del Mar.
A Unified Command was established for the crisis and included U.S. Border Patrol (USBP), Air and Marine Operations AMO), U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), the Del Mar Fire Department, the Oceanside Police Department, California State Parks, San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, Oceanside Police Department, the City of Del Mar, and Del Mar Lifeguards.
The event began at approximately 4:45 a.m., when the Joint Harbor Operation Center received multiple reports regarding individuals on the beach near 12th Street in Del Mar. USBP, AMO, USCG, local law enforcement, and local emergency services responded immediately to the area.
Once on scene, first responders found 10 people already onshore and three people that Encinitas Life Guards had rescued by boat. All 13 were transported to nearby hospitals due to symptoms of hypothermia.
“This is another example of smugglers placing profit over human life. They forced women and children into deep ocean water and abandoned them,” said San Diego Sector Chief Patrol Agent Aaron Heitke. “If not for the actions of our agents and partnering agencies, the results could have been tragic.”
USBP agents later determined that the rescued group were members of a maritime smuggling event and subsequently took custody of all. Out of the 13, there was one 15-year-old female, one 13-year-old and one 15-year-old male, four adult females, and six adult males. All 13 are Mexican nationals.
Reports from members of the group indicate there may have been as many as 18 people, including two smugglers, on board the vessel. The individuals also stated they were told to exit the vessel and swim to shore when they were still far from shore and beyond the surf line.
At this time, the Border Patrol Search, Trauma, and Rescue dive team; Del Mar Lifeguards; the San Diego County Sheriff’s Dive Team; the Coast Guard Cutter Sockeye crew; Air and Marine boat crew; a Coast Guard Station San Diego 45-foot Response Boat-Medium crew; and a Sector San Diego MH-60 Jayhawk Helicopter crew are actively searching for more people. An AMO boat crew headed south to search for a panga.
Chief Heitke added, “Our agents and partners will continue to protect our Nation, save lives, and educate the public as to the dangers of crossing the border illegally.”
As of FY20, USBP San Diego Sector and its partners have apprehended 368 individuals who attempted to enter into the U.S. illegally via maritime smuggling.