Suspected Smuggling Vessel Overturns, Leaving At Least 4 Dead, More Than 20 Hospitalized

Four people are dead, and more than two dozen were transported to hospitals after a suspected smuggling vessel overturned on Sunday morning.

The accident occurred off the coast of San Diego near the Cabrillo National Monument in Point Loma. The local fire rescue department started to receive calls about the overturned vessel around 10:27 a.m., spokesperson Monica Munoz told CNN.

According to James Gartland, lifeguard chief for the city, it’s believed the boat hit the reef, broke apart, and 30 people were ejected from the 40-foot cabin cruiser.

“This was a mass rescue operation that turned into a mass casualty incident,” Gartland said.

Thirty people were on board, Romero said. Three of those people died, and most made it to shore on their own. However, six people had to be rescued from the water after a rip current pulled them into the sea.

“Our goal was just to rescue everyone we could,” he said, adding that a Navy staff member who was out with his family also tried to save people in the water.

“Conditions were pretty rough — 5-6 feet of surf, windy, cold, the water’s around 60 degrees, so you get hypothermic pretty quickly,” Romero said.

The Federal Fire, US Coast Guard, and other agencies assisted the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department.

“Every indication, from our perspective, is that this was a smuggling vessel used to smuggle migrants into the United States illegally,” said Jeff Stephenson, supervisor and border patrol agent in the San Diego sector of US Customs and Border Patrol.

The department told the outlet that more than 20 people were transported to local hospitals, “including Sharp Memorial, Palomar Medical Center West, Alvarado, UCSD Medical Center (Hillcrest), Grossmont Hospital, Kaiser Clairemont Mesa, Kaiser Zion, and Paradise Valley Hospital.”

The driver of the boat is believed to be in custody.

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