Captain Of Suspected Smuggling Vessel That Overturned Taken Into Custody

By Bill Galluccio

May 3, 2021

The captain of a suspected human smuggling boat was taken into custody after the vessel overturned off the coast of San Diego on Sunday (May 2). Officials said there 29 people crammed inside the 40-foot cabin cruiser when it struck a reef near the Cabrillo National Monument in Point Loma.

The boat was damaged in the collision and battered with waves of up to six feet, causing it to break apart.

"The boat was on the reef, bouncing back and forth, and then slowly disintegrated into a bunch of pieces," Lifeguard Lt. Rick Romero with San Diego Fire-Rescue said. "There's no boat there."

Four people died in the accident, and one person remains hospitalized in critical condition. The other 24 people on the boat survived, though they sustained injuries, including hypothermia and cuts and bruises from pieces of the ship. Officials said they pulled six survivors from the water while the others managed to swim to shore.

The ages and nationalities of those on the boat were not released.

Romera said that the vessel did not have a manifest and did not say if there were children on the boat when it capsized.

Authorities said the boat, which was attempting to blend in with commercial ships in the area, was larger than normal smuggling vessels.

"We're assuming that it was illegal migration, but generally they are smaller, in the 20 to 30-foot range, generally about 20-plus migrants," said Brandon Tucker, CBP deputy director of air operations for the San Diego Air and Marine Branch. "This one was a bit larger than normal, but for overcrowding on these vessels, the unsafe conditions on these vessels, it's the same, it's just slightly larger."

Photo: Getty Images

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