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San Diego boat wreck kills 3, shows risks of ocean smuggling

Boat wreck kills 3

A tractor-trailer slams into an SUV at an intersection on a remote California desert highway, killing 13 of 25 people crammed inside the late model Ford Expedition.

A man dangles a toddler over a border wall near Santa Teresa, New Mexico, allowing her to fall on her face before he disappears into Mexico.

A 40-foot cabin cruiser overloaded with 32 people capsizes just off the San Diego coast, killing three and critically injuring another person. The others aboard survived, with one in critical condition.

The incidents, which occurred over the last two months, show how smugglers put migrants at extraordinary peril for profits, whether by car, on foot or at sea.

The Coast Guard on Monday ended its search for survivors of the San Diego boat wreck, which happened on a bright Sunday morning near tidepools of Cabrillo National Monument, a popular spot for tourists and hikers.

All but two people on the boat were Mexican citizens without legal status in the U.S. The others were a Guatemalan citizen without legal status in the U.S. and a U.S. citizen who was identified as the pilot, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Monday. Among the 28 in CBP custody were a 15-year-old boy travelling alone and 21 men and six women, ages 18 to 39.

Mexico's Foreign Relations Secretary said Mexican passengers were being turned over to U.S. immigration authorities to be returned to Mexico.

The boat captain was in custody but Kelly Thornton, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office in San Diego, declined to comment, saying prosecutors were “carefully reviewing the matter.”

The SUV crash occurred in March and authorities said it was one of two vehicles crammed with occupants that entered the U.S. through an opening cut into the border wall. All were being smuggled. Those inside the other SUV were not involved in the accident and were picked up by the Border Patrol.

The toddler in the New Mexico incident was believed dropped into the country by a smuggler and survived the fall.

Smuggling off the California coast has ebbed and flowed over the years but has long been a risky alternative for migrants to avoid heavily guarded land borders. Small boats with single- or twin-engines known as “pangas” enter from Mexico in the dead of night, sometimes charting hundreds of miles north. Recreational boats, like the one that capsized Sunday, try to mix in unnoticed with fishing and pleasure vessels during the day.

Later Sunday, U.S. authorities stopped an unaccompanied 13-year-old boy, seven men and one woman suspected of entering the country illegally at sea after getting off a recreational boat in Newport Beach, about 100 miles north of the border.

The Border Patrol tallied 1,273 smuggling arrests on the California coast during the 12 months that ended Sept. 30, a 92% increase from the same period a year earlier. Since Oct. 1, it has made more than 900 arrests.



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