By Sandra G. Leon
29 people emerged from a small boat that crashed onto the coast near the Cabrillo National Monument in Point Loma on Sunday, killing four of the occupants in what is believed to be a smuggling operation.
The 40-foot cabin cruiser was first spotted at around 10:30am on Sunday, May 2, as it crashed on the coastline and began to break apart. Although there is no official count of how many people were on board, a total of 29 were recovered, including four dead.
“It was a smuggling vessel,” said Jeffery Stephenson of the Customs and Border Protection Public Affairs Office during a press briefing after the incident. “Border Patrol agents are with a man we believe was the operator.”
Stephenson said the boat was overcrowded and did not have enough safety equipment for all onboard.
“Smugglers don’t care about the people they’re exploiting,” Stephenson said. “All they care about is profit. They had inadequate safety equipment and obviously this vessel was severely overcrowded.”
Over 96 personnel from Coast Guard, San Diego Lifeguards, Border Patrol, and San Diego Fire-Rescue responded to the incident. A Customs & Border Protection helicopter was dispatched to the scene but did not engage in the rescue.
27 of the passengers were treated at various of local hospitals, including Sharp Memorial, Palomar Medical Center West, Alvarado, UCSD Medical Center in Hillcrest, Grossmont Hospital, Kaiser Clairemont Mesa, Kaiser Zion and Paradise Valley Hospital. Two of the 27 patients later died and the remaining 25 were treated for various injuries.
The incident is still under investiagton and the names of the deceased have not yet been released.