OAN Geraldyn Berry
UPDATED 2:19 PM – Monday, March 13, 2023
San Diego Fire and Rescue has announced that at least eight people of unknown nationalities are dead and seven people are missing following two boats crashing off the San Diego’s Black Beach coast on Saturday night. The boats are suspected to be involved in a smuggling attempt.
A woman who was on a panga boat with eight other people and had made it to the coast of Black’s Beach made a transfer call to the San Diego Fire-Rescue Lifeguard Division communications center. The fatalities were in the water after another panga carrying 8 to 10 people capsized.
The woman’s cellphone’s GPS had enabled the lifeguard dispatcher to pinpoint the crash’s location, which was roughly 800 yards north of the Black Gold Road base. Personnel from the SDFD, San Diego police, Customs Border Protection, US Coast Guard, State Lifeguards, UCSD Police, and SDFD Lifeguards reacted to the capsized situation.
“The woman who called stated that the boat that overturned had 15 people on it, but that was just an estimate,” according to United States Coast Guard Petty Officer Richard Brahm.
When the SDFD lifeguard unit got there, they could not get to the beach because of the high tide, so they had to wade through water that was up to their waists. A Coast Guard helicopter was the only aircraft able to make it to the area due to the fog and other weather conditions. Over the next 400 yards, they started to discover bodies and two pangas that had capsized. There were also several life jackets and fuel barrels discovered.
According to the SDFD, lifeguards on the scene hauled seven bodies to the shore. Eight body were later located by Customs and Border Protection’s Air and Marine Operations. The San Diego County Medical Examiner was given complete access to all victims.
On Sunday, Coast Guard Petty Officer Eddie Berrios confirmed the recoveries but stated that teams were searching for at least seven more. The beach is located roughly 15 miles north of downtown San Diego and could have provided an escape route for some or all of the surviving passengers.
By mid-afternoon, the Coast Guard suspended the search for them around mid-afternoon local time.
“The lowest they could get was down to about 100 feet,” Commander of the Coast Guard’s San Diego sector Captain James Spitler said. “They couldn’t see the water very well, even with night-vision goggles. So they did a few legs of the search pattern and determined that the risk exceeded their ability to do a search effectively, so they returned to base.”