A 19-foot boat suspected of being used for smuggling came ashore at Imperial Beach early Thursday and eight people were taken into custody by federal agents, authorities said.
An Imperial Beach lifeguard spotted the pleasure craft coming ashore south of Imperial Beach Pier around 7:55 a.m. and saw a group of people leave the boat and head to a nearby street, U.S. Border Patrol spokesman Victor Pirro said.
Board Patrol agents responded within minutes and detained the eight people a couple blocks away on Imperial Beach Boulevard near 2nd Street, Pirro said.
Members of the group smelled strongly of gasoline, he said.
Pirro said agents were at the scene about five minutes after getting the call, “a very rapid response time.”
Seven men and one woman — including two suspected smugglers — were arrested, and the boat has been seized, Pirro said. The eight, who all said they were Mexican nationals, will be processed at a nearby Border Patrol station for entering the country illegally, he said.
The boat, which was painted a blue-gray color, was carrying seven 10-gallon fuel tanks. Pirro said it also had exposed battery wiring and that no life vests were seen in the boat.
“It was extremely dangerous,” he said. “They all smelled of gasoline and they had exposed wires from the battery. It was very dangerous.”
Officials said it is unusual to see smuggling boats come ashore during daylight hours.