Federal charges filed against alleged boat captain in deadly smuggling wreck

Large pieces of debris at tide pools
A National Park Service employee removes debris and wreckage from a human smuggling boat that ran aground at the tide pools at Cabrillo National Monument in San Diego.
(Denis Poroy)
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A man accused of piloting the boat that broke up on the rocks of Point Loma in a deadly human smuggling attempt has been charged in San Diego federal court, according to a complaint filed Wednesday.

Antonio Hurtado faces charges of attempting to bring in migrants at a place other than a port of entry and assault on a federal officer, both felonies.

According to the complaint, several of the 29 survivors identified Hurtado in a photo lineup as the captain of the 40-foot trawler-style boat that ran aground about 50 feet offshore and broke apart on the rocks below Cabrillo National Monument midmorning Sunday. Many families visiting the landmark lighthouse and tide pools there watched the horror unfold, and some bystanders joined the massive rescue effort.


Three passengers suffered blunt-force injuries and drowned: Victor Perez Degollado, 29; Maria Eugenia Chavez Segovia, 41; and Maricela Hernandez Sanchez, 35. All were from Mexico, according to the San Diego County medical examiner’s office.

Three people were killed during the apparent human smuggling attempt

May 3, 2021

Two passengers — a Guatemalan man and an unidentified Mexican man — remain hospitalized, the latter with critical injuries, according to the court affidavit signed Tuesday.

All but one of the 28 additional passengers, all from Mexico, are in federal custody as material witnesses in the case.

The court documents did not give additional details as to Hurtado’s alleged role in the smuggling incident. It was unclear when he would make an initial appearance in court. Hurtado’s age, city of residence and citizenship status were not disclosed in court documents.

Hurtado’s attorney did not respond to a request for comment.

Authorities have said the suspected captain is a U.S. citizen.

The assault charge stems from allegations that Hurtado struck a Border Patrol agent in the head with his knee while being shackled at the ankle, the complaint says.

Many of the passengers told authorities that they paid $15,000 to $18,000 to be smuggled into the United States, according to the complaint.


Davis writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.