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Dozens Of People Were Injured And Three Killed After A Smuggling Boat Overturned Near San Diego

An additional 27 people were taken to hospitals with injuries.

Posted on May 2, 2021, at 6:49 p.m. ET

Denis Poroy / AP

Wreckage and debris from a capsized boat wash ashore at Cabrillo National Monument near where a boat capsized just off the San Diego coast Sunday.

Three people died and 27 others were injured after an overcrowded boat capsized off the coast of San Diego on Sunday.

Authorities believe the boat was being used to smuggle people into the US. It wasn't immediately known where the boat had departed from.

The overturned boat was reported by someone on shore around 10:30 a.m. Sunday near Point Loma, which is about 13 miles from the US–Mexico border. San Diego firefighters and lifeguards, along with the US Coast Guard and US Customs and Border Protection officers, responded to pull people from the water and search the area.

Denis Poroy / AP

A US Coast Guard helicopter flies over boats searching the area where a boat capsized just off the San Diego coast Sunday.

According to San Diego lifeguard chief James Gartland, Sunday’s incident was a mass rescue operation that included lifeguards using CPR on three victims, seven water rescues, and one cliff rescue.

“It’s a tragedy. It’s a tragic event here in San Diego, and probably one of the biggest vessel accidents and bigger calls we’ve seen here,” Gartland said in a press conference.

“We train to rescue people in the water that are in trouble off the cliffs and out the water; it doesn’t matter where they come from and what they’re doing," he added.

Videos and photos from the scene showed debris floating in the water after the boat broke up on a reef.

Border Patrol agent Jeff Stephenson told reporters that while investigators are still looking into where the boat departed from, it’s common for smuggling vessels to enter the San Diego area from beaches on Mexico's Baja coast. Stephenson also said that Border Patrol has seen a 92% increase in maritime apprehensions in the last fiscal year.

My daughter’ s Godfather and two of her friends are surrounded by debris near the Capsized boat at Ballast Pt. Point Loma,Ca.

Twitter: @HRYmonkey

Crossing the border by sea, in crowded boats without adequate safety equipment, creates an incredibly dangerous situation for immigrants, he said.

“The smugglers don't care about the people they’re exploiting; all they care about is lining their own pocket for profit,” he said. “To them, these people are just commodities; you can see that in the way they treat them.”

The captain of the boat was in custody Sunday, and criminal charges are possible.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.