Lifeguards Friday rescued a group of migrants who jumped out of a skiff off the coast of Del Mar during a predawn human smuggling attempt and wound up struggling for their lives in the dark ocean swells.
Neighbors reported hearing people shouting for help from the direction of a stretch of shoreline south of Seagrove Park about 4:45 a.m., authorities said.
Emergency personnel arrived in the area to find 10 drenched people on the beach and another three still in the water, in distress, according to the Border Patrol. Lifeguards set out in a rescue vessel and pulled the trio out of the water, the federal agency reported.
Medics took the ill-fated traveling party — two women, eight men and three teenage minors, all Mexican nationals — to hospitals for treatment of symptoms of hypothermia.
“Reports from members of the group indicate there may have been as many as 18 people, including two smugglers, aboard the vessel,” according to a Border Patrol statement. “The individuals also stated they were told to exit the vessel and swim to shore when they were still far from shore and beyond the surf line.”
Lifeguards, city dive teams and Coast Guard boat and helicopter personnel searched the ocean and shoreline in the area into the afternoon for any other victims, finding none. Those people may have managed to make it to shore and sneak away, Del Mar Fire Chief Mike Stein noted to reporters.
Aaron Heitke, chief agent for the Border Patrol’s San Diego Sector, called the incident “another example of smugglers placing profit over human life.”
“They forced women and children into deep ocean water and abandoned them,” Heitke said.
Updated at 5:30 p.m., Friday, Feb. 28, 2020
— From Staff and Wire Reports