1 dead off San Diego coast in apparent smuggling attempt

National News

A small boat used during a suspected human smuggling operation sits on La Jolla beach in San Diego, on Thursday, May 20, 2021. Authorities said multiple people believed to have been aboard the boat were rescued from the ocean along the San Diego coast early Thursday. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

SAN DIEGO (AP) — One person was killed and eight were injured Thursday in an apparent migrant smuggling attempt off San Diego’s tony La Jolla coast, authorities said.

Lifeguards rescued 10 people in what the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department called “rough water conditions,” including eight who were hospitalized. Some of the migrants wore life vests.

One person who was found underwater was pronounced dead on the beach. The fire department in a statement said it did not know how many people were aboard the boat.

Lifeguards were alerted that people were in the water around 5:30 a.m., minutes before sunrise. The boat was in waters just offshore from Wipeout Beach, off the coast from multimillion-dollar homes, shops and in an area that is popular with surfers, swimmers, walkers and runners.

The fire department said survivors were turned over to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Earlier this month, a recreational cabin cruiser overloaded with 32 people capsized off the San Diego coast, killing three people in a smuggling attempt.

Smuggling off the California coast has ebbed and flowed over the years but has long been a risky alternative for migrants to avoid heavily guarded land borders.

Small boats with single- or twin-engines known as “pangas” enter from Mexico in the dead of night, sometimes heading hundreds of miles north. Recreational boats, like the one that capsized earlier this month, try to mix in unnoticed with fishing and pleasure vessels during the day.

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