The 30-foot panga boat at a dock in Oceanside. Photo courtesy Customs and Border Protection
The 30-foot panga boat at a dock in Oceanside. Photo courtesy Customs and Border Protection

Customs and Border Protection agents caught a panga boat in deep water off Oceanside that was smuggling 20 people into the United States, officials reported Wednesday.

The boat was spotted Tuesday off Del Mar by a King Air 350ER aircraft, and agents in patrol craft were directed to the location. The boats caught up with the panga about 12 miles west of Oceanside. The Coast Guard Cutter Tern was also in the area providing information and assistance.

“Maritime smuggling poses a threat to not only the passengers on these questionably seaworthy vessels in unpredictable seas, but also to the boating public,” said William Raymond, director of air operations in San Diego for the agency.

Raymond said the agency encourages mariners and coastal residents to support the Department of Homeland Security’s See Something, Say Something campaign and call in suspicious maritime activity to local authorities.

The panga and passengers were taken to the Oceanside Harbor where they were turned over to the Border Patrol for processing.

There were 13 men and seven woman on board. All were Mexican nationals except for two men from Guatemala and one man from El Salvador. The passengers’ ages ranged from 20 to 51 years.

Two men on the panga will be prosecuted for human smuggling, according to Customs and Border Protection.

A panga is an open, outboard-powered, fishing boat common throughout much of the developing world. The original design was developed as part of a World Bank project in the 1970s..

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.