7 killed in capsized boats off San Diego were Mexican migrants
At least seven of eight people killed when two boats capsized in shallow but turbulent surf off the San Diego coast were Mexican migrants, Mexican officials said Monday.
Preliminary identification was based on records found with people's bodies when they were recovered, the Mexican consulate in San Diego said in a news release. The nationality of the eighth person was unknown.
The consulate didn't provide ages, genders or other information about the people killed in one of the deadliest maritime migrant smuggling operations off U.S. waters. Rescue authorities have said all were adults.
A Spanish-speaking woman who called 911 said she was among eight people on a vessel that reached shore and that 15 people were on another boat that overturned. Authorities found two capsized boats in shallow water amid thick fog late Saturday.
The Coast Guard suspended its search for remains on Sunday. Survivors may have escaped on land, including the woman who called 911. Authorities did not know her whereabouts.
Multiple agencies, including the San Diego Fire Department Lifeguards, Customs Border Protection and the U.S. Coast Guard all responded to the scene initially, but rescue officials had difficulty accessing the beach because of the high tide. They were forced to continue on foot wading through "knee to waist deep water," according to fire officials.
"After a couple hundred yards, lifeguards on the beach reached dry sand and then began to find lifeless bodies and two overturned pangas spread over an area of about 400 yards," fire officials said Sunday.
The Border Patrol reports hundreds of known smuggling attempts each year on the California coast. Carlos González Gutiérrez, Mexico's consul general in San Diego, on Monday warned against the perilous trip.
"People planning to cross the border into the United States, either by land or sea, should know that human smugglers will take advantage of their need in order to obtain illicit money, distorting reality, creating false expectations, and exposing them to high-risk conditions where they may lose their lives," he said.
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