Three people were killed and more than two dozen others were hospitalized after a wooden boat capsized on Sunday in a possible human trafficking operation just off the coast of San Diego, announced authorities.

Local rescuers, the U.S. Coast Guard and other agencies responded around 10:30 a.m. following reports of a vessel overturned near the Point Loma Peninsula, according to the San Fire and Rescue Service. Diego.

Three people died at the scene and 27 people were taken to hospitals with “varying degrees of injuries,” department spokesman Jose Ysea said.

Ysea said upon arriving at the scene near the Cabrillo National Monument, there was a “large field of debris” of broken wood and other objects in the rough waters.

“In this area of ​​Point Loma, it’s very rocky. It is likely that the waves will continue to hit the boat, breaking it, ”Ysea said.

He said it was possible, but not confirmed, that the group was packed into a low-slung panga boat, a type of motorized boat often made of wood used by smugglers to illegally bring people to the United States from Mexico. .

Officials believed everyone on board was found, but boat and plane crews continued to search the area for other potential survivors, Ysea said.

The U.S. border patrol did not immediately respond to inquiries about the capsizing. A press conference was scheduled for Sunday afternoon.

Border Patrol often sees pangas off the coast of San Diego, many of which are crowded with around 20 passengers. Some boats have landed hundreds of kilometers north of the border. The deaths are unusual but not unprecedented.

Border officials on Thursday intercepted a panga-type vessel traveling without navigation lights 18 kilometers off the coast of Point Loma with 21 people on board. The crew took the 15 men and six women into custody.

Officers determined that all were Mexican citizens without legal status to enter the United States, according to a statement released by Customs and Border Protection. Two of the people on the boat, the suspected smugglers, will face federal charges, he said.

Border Patrol said on Friday law enforcement officials would step up operations to disrupt maritime smuggling off San Diego this weekend.

As warmer weather arrives in San Diego, it is mistakenly believed that it will make illegal crossings safer or easier, the agency said in a statement.

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