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At least 7 victims of a capsized boat in San Diego are presumed to have been Mexicans

Two boats, carrying at least eight people, attempted to reach the shores of Black Beach on Saturday night.
Donald Miralle
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Two boats, carrying at least eight people, attempted to reach the shores of Black Beach on Saturday night.

Updated March 13, 2023 at 5:27 PM ET

At least seven of the eight people who were found dead over the weekend on the shores of Black's Beach in San Diego are presumed to have been nationals of Mexico, according to the Mexican consulate general. That's based on the identifications they carried.

The deaths are believed to have been related a capsized boat that local authorities discovered near the city's Torrey Pines neighborhood.

Around 11:30 p.m. local time on Saturday, authorities received a 911 call that a boat carrying at least eight people had overturned and that victims were in the water.

The call was made by a Spanish-speaking woman who was on a separate boat with eight people that had already reached the shore, according to San Diego Fire Department officials.

Initial search attempts were hampered by the high tide and weather conditions on Saturday evening. After six hours of search and recovery efforts, authorities said they found in total eight deceased people and two small overturned fishing boats known as pangas, Mónica Muñoz, a spokeswoman for the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, told NPR.

Officials also found several life jackets and fuel barrels, Muñoz said.

No survivors were encountered during the search, and the bodies of all of the victims were turned over to San Diego County Medical Examiner, she added. Searches continued the next day for other passengers who may have been missing. The U.S. Coast Guard said they suspended the search at 3:30 p.m. local time on Sunday.

All eight victims appeared to be adults, local fire officials said.

Both local and federal authorities suspect that the boats were carrying migrants who were attempting to reach the U.S.

"This is one of the worst maritime smuggling tragedies that I can think of," Lifeguard Chief James Gartland said at a press conference on Sunday.

Officials also did not have any information on what may have caused the boats to capsize, as of Sunday, but Gartland noted that the area where the boats were found is generally hazardous — even in the daytime.

"You could land in some sand or get to waist-high, knee-high water and think that you're safe and be able to exit the water, but there's long inshore holes," he said. "So, if you step into those holes, those rip currents will pull you along the shore and back out the sea."

Along with local firefighters and lifeguards, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Coast Guard assisted in the rescue and recovery efforts.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Juliana Kim
Juliana Kim is a weekend reporter for Digital News, where she adds context to the news of the day and brings her enterprise skills to NPR's signature journalism.