Overturned smuggling boat
The overturned smuggling boat on the beach. Courtesy Border Patrol.

Authorities Wednesday reported the death of a second man stemming from a boating accident that sent a group of undocumented immigrants into rough nighttime seas during an ill-fated human smuggling run off the coast of Imperial Beach.

The 44-year-old Mexican national died in a San Diego-area hospital Tuesday afternoon, roughly 36 hours after a capsizing boat sent him and six other men into heavy surf just north of the U.S.-Mexico border, according to the U.S. Border Patrol.

About 2:30 a.m. Monday, federal officers staffing the Joint Harbor Operation Center in San Diego spotted the suspicious northbound vessel, seemingly beset by engine trouble in the roiled ocean, USBP Agent Jarrett Decker said.

As the craft was thrashed by large waves, two of the seven men aboard it jumped into the water and swam toward shore, after which the boat tipped over.

Border Patrol personnel arrived in the area to find the group on the beach, two in serious medical distress, Decker said. Paramedics took the pair to a trauma center, where one of them, a 62-year-old man, was pronounced dead on arrival. The other was admitted in critical condition and succumbed to his injuries the next day, Decker said.

The rest of the group was taken into custody for being illegally present in the United States and transported to a nearby Border Patrol Station for processing. One of them, the 51-year-old operator of the boat, was arrested on suspicion of human smuggling.

The names of the suspect and the deceased men were not released.

“Maritime smuggling is extremely dangerous, and smugglers place an emphasis on monetary gain over victim safety,” USBP San Diego Sector Chief Patrol Agent Aaron Heitke sand. “I commend all those involved who did everything they could in an attempt to save these victims’ lives.”

— City News Service