23 people rescued from panga off Sunset Cliffs

A panga carrying 23 people was spotted off Sunset Cliffs early Monday.
A panga carrying 23 people was spotted off Sunset Cliffs early Monday.
(OnScene TV )

Twenty-three people were rescued off a suspected smuggling boat intercepted off the coast of Point Loma early Monday, officials said.

The boat was spotted shortly before 2:50 a.m. by a video surveillance system operated by the Border Patrol, officials said. The boat was drifting near rocks off Sunset Cliffs Boulevard near Osprey Street, according to San Diego police.

A Coast Guard cutter responded and deployed a small boat. Its crew tried to make contact with the operator of the panga, but that person ignored commands to stop.

OnScene TV reported that the boat’s engine died.

As the panga drifted closer to shore, it became stuck in the surf line and officials feared it might capsize.


San Diego lifeguards and San Diego Harbor Police were summoned and the Coast Guard pulled the panga from the surf line and removed people off the boat.

The 20 men and three women were taken to San Diego lifeguard headquarters and the panga was towed there. Border Patrol agents interviewed the passengers and determined all 23 were illegally in the U.S., said Border Patrol Supervisory Agent Jeffrey Stephenson.

He said 20 of the people were from Mexico and three were from Guatemala.

The panga was seized and the investigation is ongoing, officials said. Stephenson said the boat’s operator has not yet been identified. The passengers were going to be taken to a Border Patrol station and processed, he said.

Earlier this month, three people were killed when a smuggling boat broke apart on the rocks near Cabrillo National Monument.