One woman drowned and 13 people were pulled from the water after up to 70 people attempted to illegally enter the United States from Tijuana by swimming around the barrier at Border Field State Park in San Diego, federal officials say.
U.S. Border Patrol agents found the woman unresponsive early Saturday after being notified that immigrants were attempting the swim, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a statement.
The agents performed CPR themselves and brought in a San Diego Fire-Rescue emergency medical services team, but the woman was pronounced dead at the scene, the statement said. The San Diego Medical Examiner took custody of the body.
The Coast Guard then rescued 13 people from the water. The Border Patrol, Coast Guard, San Diego fire crews and California State Parks officers conducted a search of the area and took 36 Mexican nationals into custody, including 25 men and 11 women. The fate of the rest of the people who attempted the swim was not immediately known.
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“This is yet another example of the ruthless tactics smuggling organizations use to bolster their power and profits,” said Chief Patrol Agent Aaron Heitke of the Border Patrol's San Diego Sector.
Border deaths were up sharply in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. The 557 total was more than double 2020's 254 fatality total. And those totals represent only bodies recovered with Border Patrol involvement. Other state and local agencies also recover bodies, so the number of deaths is likely higher.
Border Field State Park marks the southwestern corner of the United States, 15 miles south of San Diego. The wildlife habitat includes sand dunes and salt marshes. But the park's website "does not recommend swimming or wading, due to hazardous conditions, such as inshore holes, rip currents, and the lack of lifeguard service within the park."
In March, a Honduran mother of two drowned in the same waters. Yuri Rios made the attempt with her brother-in-law, José Dueñas, who survived the swim.
The dark, foreboding border barrier, about 12 feet high, extends about 300 feet into the Pacific Ocean between the park and a Tijuana beach. The park is awash in floodlights, agents on ATVs, observation towers and night-vision cameras to discourage migrants from illegally entering the United States.
Visitors to the park are not allowed to approach the fencing except for a section called Friendship Park, for decades a meeting place for families and loved ones gathering on each side of the fence. Some people travel several hours for the brief meetings. Friendship Park is only open on weekends, 10 am to 2 pm, and the Border Patrol limits the number of visitors allowed in the park and may check IDs.
No items can be passed through the fence, including food, money, gifts and notes, and doing so is a customs violation.
The Customs and Border Protection’s office of professional responsibility was investigating the latest death.
“We will work tirelessly to pursue and bring to justice those responsible for this tragedy," Heitke said.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Death at US-Mexico border barrier: Woman drowns, 13 people rescued