One dead, 13 rescued in large-scale attempt to swim around U.S.-Mexico border fence

A fence jutting into the ocean.
The border fence juts into the Pacific from Playas de Tijuana in Mexico, with downtown San Diego beyond.
(Alejandro Tamayo / San Diego Union-Tribune)

One migrant died and 13 others were rescued trying to swim from Mexico to the United States late Friday night, Border Patrol officials said Saturday.

A woman who died was believed to be part of a group of an estimated 70 people attempting to illegally enter the U.S. by swimming around the border barrier in the Pacific Ocean and making their way to the beach at Border Field State Park in San Diego, said U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesperson Jackie Wasiluk.

The incident was reported shortly after 11:30 p.m. Friday, bringing Border Patrol agents, Coast Guard crews, San Diego firefighters and lifeguards and California State Parks personnel to the shoreline.

Authorities tried to revive the woman, but she died at the scene.


The Coast Guard deployed a helicopter as part of search and rescue efforts, said Public Affairs Specialist 1st Class Adam Stanton.

“We grabbed 13 people out of the water and took them to shore, handing them to the Border Patrol, because it is their jurisdiction to process them and get them back to where they need to be,” Stanton said.

Antonio Hurtado does not cut the typical profile of a maritime smuggler. Yet he is accused of smashing a trawler onto the rocks off Point Loma, killing three of the 32 migrants aboard.

Oct. 24, 2021

Border Patrol agents took 36 Mexican nationals — 25 men and 11 women — into custody, including the 13 rescued. All were taken to a nearby Border Patrol station for processing. Officials did not say whether there were any injuries.

Coast Guard personnel, firefighters and California State Parks workers continued to search the area in efforts to locate any other people in distress.

“This is yet another example of the ruthless tactics smuggling organizations use to bolster their power and profits,” Aaron Heitke, chief patrol agent for the Border Patrol’s San Diego Sector, said in a statement. “We will work tirelessly to pursue and bring to justice those responsible for this tragedy.”

The maritime route — particularly by boat — has grown increasingly popular in the last couple of years among migrants attempting to enter the U.S. as authorities have tightened border enforcement on land.

San Diego Union-Tribune staff writer Kristina Davis contributed to this report.