A ship near the San Diego coast overturned Sunday, resulting in four deaths and at least 24 injured in what authorities are saying was most likely a human smuggling operation.
The deadly incident took place around 10:15 a.m. local time near Cabrillo National Monument. “Lifeguards, the U.S. Coast Guard and other agencies responded to the scene after reports of an overturned vessel in the surf near the rocky peninsula,” according to Fox News.
According to reports by ABC News and others, authorities are investigating the incident as part of a human smuggling operation.
The San Diego Fire Department also assisted with the shipwreck.
“Once we arrived on the scene, the boat had basically been broken apart,” San Diego Lifeguard Services Lt. Rick Romero said according to Fox News.
“Conditions were pretty rough: 5 to 6 feet of surf, windy, cold,” he added.
“When we arrived on the scene … there were people in the water, drowning, getting sucked out of the rip current,” Romero said, according to Reuters.
Chief Patrol Agent Aaron M. Heitke of Border Patrol’s San Diego Sector tweeted that Sunday’s rescue was “related to a suspected maritime smuggling event.”
“Every indication from our perspective is that this was a smuggling vessel, used to smuggle migrants into the United States illegally,” Border Patrol agent Jeff Stephenson said, according to Reuters.
The incident also follows another large possible smuggling operation discovered Friday in Houston.
Police followed a tip that led to the discovery of 90 people in one home. Authorities were investigating the incident as part of a possible human smuggling ring, according to The New York Times.
The incidents occur as both Republicans and some Democrats have criticized the Biden administration for its immigration policies. Most Republicans call it a crisis, while President Joe Biden’s administration has referred to the influx of illegal immigrants as a “challenge.”
The president assigned Vice President Kamala Harris to lead the nation’s response to the immigration surge in March. Harris later clarified she is seeking to address the “root causes” of immigration from Northern Triangle nations, not the issues at the border itself.
The vice president plans to visit Mexico and Guatemala in June, according to NBC News.