At least 4 people were killed and dozens hospitalized after a boat believed to be a smuggling vessel overturned in San Diego

Taylor Ardrey,Kelsey Vlamis
·3 min read
san diego boat capsize
A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter flies over boats searching the area where a boat capsized just off the San Diego coast Sunday, May 2, 2021, in San Diego. AP Photo/Denis Poroy
  • At least four people were killed and dozens were hospitalized after a boat overturned in San Diego.

  • Multiple agencies helped pull people who were onboard out of the water, the SDFD said.

  • The boat is believed to have been an illegal smuggling vessel, but its origin is not yet known.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

At least four people were killed after a boat overturned near the Cabrillo National Monument in San Diego, California, on Sunday morning, the US Coast Guard said. According to the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, an estimated 27 people had been transported to local hospitals.

The Coast Guard said the boat capsized on rocks near the Point Loma Tide Pools.

During a press conference, SDFD Lifeguard Lt. Rick Romero said about 30 people were believed to have been on board, but that there was no manifest of passengers. He said the 40-foot cabin cruiser was overcrowded, and officials are unsure where the boat came from.

He said when they arrived on scene, "the boat had been basically broken apart" after getting caught on the reef. He said there were people in the water drowning or caught up in a rip current and getting pulled out to sea. Rescue boats and jet skies were able to pull some people out of the water. At least one civilian jumped in the water to assist in the rescue.

He said CPR was performed on four people, three of which died. The condition of the fourth person could not be confirmed.

Others were able to walk or swim to shore. Injuries included hypothermia and injuries caused by the boat breaking. He couldn't confirm the seriousness of the injuries for the people transported to hospitals.

Jeff Stephenson, a supervisory Border Patrol agent, said the boat is believed to have been an illegal smuggling vessel. The man who is believed to have been the boat's operator, the suspected smuggler, is in custody. The nationality of the people involved had not been confirmed.

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"Crossing the border illegally is unsafe no matter the method, especially at sea," he said. "The smugglers really just don't care about the people they're exploiting. All they care about is lining their own pocket for profit."

Stephenson said the boat was "severely overcrowded" and had "inadequate safety equipment."

He also said maritime smuggling has been increasing in recent years and is used by smugglers as an alternative, possibly due to increased border infrastructure and patrols on land.

From 2019 to 2020, Stephenson said his agency had a "92% increase in apprehensions in the maritime environment."

Departments responding to the scene also included the US Coast Guard, city lifeguards, and other agencies.

US Coast Guard is still searching the water, as the exact number of people who were on board is not known.

This story is developing. Check back for updates.

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