U.S. Border Patrol agents spotted this panga boat off the coast of Del Mar. Courtesy U.S. Border Patrol

Border Patrol officials announced Friday that 21 arrests were made earlier this week stemming from a foiled human smuggling operation off the coast of Del Mar.

Border Patrol agents spotted a “suspicious vessel” near Dog Beach at about 3 a.m. Tuesday, which was later identified as a panga boat dropping off 16 Mexican nationals.

In anticipation of a landing at Camino Del Mar, agents arrived to find a group of people clad in life jackets running toward three vehicles, according to the U.S. Border Patrol.

One vehicle was stopped near the scene, while the other two sped off, the Border Patrol said.

A 68-year-old U.S. citizen behind the wheel of a 2003 Mazda minivan was arrested along with eight passengers who were Mexican nationals. Two other vehicles were pursued to a hotel in Carlsbad, where the drivers — both U.S. citizens — were arrested with eight Mexican nationals who were passengers.

According to the Border Patrol, U.S. Coast Guard officials intercepted the panga boat as it was attempting to depart the area, and two Mexican national men aboard were arrested.

Border Patrol officials said five people will face human smuggling charges in connection with the incident, while one boat passenger will face charges for re-entry after prior removal. The other passengers are expected to be returned to Mexico.

— City News Service

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