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Brett Elmore
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1 dead, 8 hospitalized as boat swamped in suspected migrant smuggling attempt off San Diego coast


(SAN DIEGO, Calif.) — One person has died and eight people were hospitalized after a suspected migrant smuggling attempt led to a water rescue off the coast of San Diego, authorities said.

A U.S. Border Patrol agent spotted a panga-style vessel with several people on board traveling north near Point Loma shortly after 5 a.m. Thursday, U.S. Border Patrol said in a statement.

Agents then spotted several people who had disembarked the boat in distress in the water near the Children’s Pool beach in La Jolla.

Responding lifeguards from the San Diego Fire-Rescue Lifeguard Division rescued 10 people “in rough water conditions,” the San Diego Fire Department said in a statement. Some were wearing life vests, it said. Eight of those rescued were brought to four local hospitals. The department did not know their condition due to privacy laws, it said.

The San Diego Fire Department said that no one was in the vessel when lifeguards arrived.

“The conditions out there were rough,” San Diego Fire Department Marine Safety Captain Maureen Hodges said during a press briefing. “We have 4- to 6-foot surf and some heavy currents. There was a lot of different conditions out there in the water that required our folks out there to make some rescues, but we were able to rescue 10 people.”

The boat ultimately crashed into an area called Wipeout Beach, about a mile north of the initial rescue location, where one person was also found submerged, authorities said.

“The patient was brought to shore and CPR was performed but the patient did not survive,” the San Diego Fire Department said.

The person was pronounced dead at the scene.

Fifteen people were taken into custody following the rescue, Border Patrol said.

“All individuals were determined to be unlawfully present inside the United States,” Border Patrol Agent Jacob MacIsaac told reporters during the briefing. “My message for anyone considering making the journey would be not to put your life in the hands of smugglers.”

No other details on the people in the boat, such as ages or genders, were released.

This is the third rescue this month involving suspected smuggling boats off the coast of San Diego near Point Loma, and the second such attempt to turn fatal.

On Monday, 23 migrants were detained after their panga boat became stuck in the surf line, U.S. Border Patrol said.

Three people died after a “smuggling boat” broke apart along a reef on May 3, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said. Twenty-nine survivors were taken to various area hospitals following the rescue.

Last fiscal year, U.S. Border Patrol agents assigned to the San Diego Sector had a record number of maritime apprehensions, with 1,273.

So far this fiscal year, which is through the end of September, there have been nearly 1,100 apprehensions.

“We’re on pace to break that record again,” MacIsaac said Thursday.

MacIsaac said many times the vessels are not “sea-faring.”

“They’re grossly overladen. They’re packed with gas cans, they’re packed full of people with inadequate or lacking safety devices,” he said. “We have had incidents where we actually came across these vessels dead in the water by happenstance. Fortunately, we’re able to rescue those involved.”

ABC News’ Michelle Mendez and Jennifer Watts contributed to this report.

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