ENCINITAS, Calif. (Border Report) — Eight people were rushed to the hospital early this morning when their panga boat capsized in the surf line, about 40 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection said the accident was the result of a maritime smuggling attempt at Moonlight Beach in the community of Encinitas.
U.S. Border Patrol agents said they first spotted the small boat at 5 a.m. as it was heading toward the shoreline.
Encinitas Fire Department Battalion Chief Jim Mickelson said eight people from the boat were found in the area all were suffering from hypothermia after their time in the water.
“Eighteen life vests were located on the beach, which indicates to us there were up to 18 passengers inside the panga,” said Mickelson. “As of now, no additional passengers have been located.”
Mickelson said it’s likely the small vessel capsized in the high surf.
“They try to get as close to the beach as possible, with the elevated surf it probably caused the panga to overturn in the surf line,” he said.
Border Patrol officials said this was another in the long line of maritime smuggling events over the last few years.
The agency is reporting that already this fiscal year, they have apprehended 1,327 migrants off the California. Last year the number was 1,273.
After the accident, the Coast Guard called for a search operation in the water looking for other possible victims, but as of mid-morning, it had been called off.