On late Saturday, two boats suspected of being used for smuggling capsized near Black's Beach in the Torrey Pines area, resulting in the drowning of eight migrants, as confirmed by San Diego Lifeguard Chief James Gartland during a news conference on Sunday.
There were no survivors found yet, and rescue efforts were hindered by thick fog, but Coast Guard and San Diego Fire-Rescue crews continued to search for any potential survivors or victims on Sunday.
The Coast Guard received a call from the San Diego Police Department about a boat landing on Black's Beach, with an unknown Spanish speaker alerting San Diego dispatch about the two overturned vessels carrying 15 people.
The lifeguards did their best to rescue the passengers, but recovery efforts were more challenging due to tide and coastal cliffs. Gartland mentioned that some passengers may have left the beach. Both boats were capsized inside the shoreline and hazardous due to sandbars and in-shore rip currents.
Gartland called this incident one of the worst maritime smuggling tragedies in California, part of a transnational criminal organization's efforts to smuggle people into the US, often labor-trafficked or sex-trafficked upon arrival.
San Diego Fire-Rescue officials used GPS coordinates from the reporting party's cell phone to locate the site, 800 yards north of the base of Black Gold Road. Lifeguards on the beach found lifeless bodies and two overturned pangas, and authorities discovered life jackets and fuel barrels.
All the victims were taken to the county Medical Examiner's Office.
Several agencies provided assistance during the incident.