At least two people died while rescuers saved seven others after a panga boat capsized in heavy surf off Imperial Beach near the California-Mexico border, officials told news outlets.
U.S. Border Patrol agents investigating reports of an effort to smuggle migrants across the border discovered the capsized boat at 6 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 26, KFMB reported.
“Six to 8 foot waves, it was just massive pitching the waves, so the boat was probably just tossed and all the individuals immediately submerged,” Capt. Patrick Spears of Imperial Beach Fire and Rescue told KSWB.
Numerous agencies, including the U.S. Coast Guard, San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, Imperial Beach Fire and Rescue and others responded to the emergency, according to reports.
“A scene like that is initially chaotic,” Spears told KFMB. “Everyone is trying to make rescues. There were a lot of surfers. Waves were 4-6 feet. That’s a pretty extreme surf this morning which contributed greatly to victims suffering so badly.”
At least 10 people were thought to be in the boat, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported. Surfers and rescuers pulled nine from the frigid water, but two died on the beach.
“That was pretty heavy to witness it happen right then and there,” surfer Trevor Pike told KGTV. “People were running and getting onto the beach, and some were obviously in the water still.”
“It got very real for me because when they brought the first body up, an arm fell out of the covering and I was like ‘This isn’t fantasy. This is real. That is somebody’s daughter right there.’ That hits you,” neighbor Ron Stewart told KFMB. He called it a “big wave of sadness.”
A search continues for the possible missing person, KSWB reported.
The Department of Homeland Security is investigating the incident, KGTV reported.
Imperial Beach is a city of 26,000 people about about 15 miles south of San Diego.