8 people confirmed dead after panga crash off Black’s Beach

Capt. James Spitler, sector commander of the U.S. Coast Guard in San Diego, at a news conference on Sunday following the deaths of 8 immigrants from a capsized panga off Black’s Beach. Photo via screengrab

By Gina Yarbrough

San Diego, CA–About 8 people were confirmed dead Sunday after two boats carrying immigrants capsized off Black’s Beach Saturday night in San Diego, authorities said. 

At a news conference today, officials told reporters they had received a 911 call from a Spanish speaker at around 11:30 p.m. who reported the overturned vessels at sea. San Diego Fire Department lifeguards Customs Border Protection, and US Coast Guard were dispatched to the beach and found one panga on the shoreline with approximately 15 people onboard. The second panga with 8 people aboard had capsized on the surf. 

Rescuers said access to the location was very difficult due to the tide and coastal cliff. Lifeguards had to navigate the dangerous terrain to rescue the victims.

That area is very hazardous area, especially in the daytime. It has a series of sandbars and inshore rip currents. The surf conditions were large, and probably a 3-foot swell, said officials.

“We did the best we could to recover people from the water. Trying to find survivors. And the lifeguards after about an hour of searching and recovering bodies we were in recovery mode for about five hours after that,”  said Chief James Gartland, San Diego Fire Department Lifeguard.

“Sadly, this tragedy continues. Since 2017, we had a 771 percent increase in human trafficking in Southern California coastal region. Since 2021, we had 23 lives lost at sea,” said Capt. James Spitler, sector commander of the U.S. Coast Guard in San Diego. “This is not necessarily people trying to find a better life. This is part of a transnational criminal organization effort to smuggle people into the United States.”

Officials did not release further information on the incident due to current investigations by local and federal agencies. 

The names of the victims have not been released. 



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