The county Medical Examiner’s Office Wednesday identified a fourth person out of eight who died when two alleged smuggling boats capsized Saturday off Black’s Beach in the Torrey Pines area.
The cause of death for 17-year-old Alma Rosa Figueroa Gorgonio was drowning, according to the ME’s Office, which also listed her place of death as the beach.
The county on Tuesday also identified victims Eloy Hernandez-Baltazar, 48; Yecenia Lazcano-Soriano, 22; and Guillermo Suarez Gonzalez, 23. The coroner’s office listed drowning as the cause of death for the three.
An official report stated that the “place of death” for Gonzalez was the ocean, and the beach for Hernandez-Baltazar and Lazcano-Soriano. There was no information on where the four victims resided previously.
No identification has been made for the remaining four victims. Coroner’s officials said they are working with the Consulate General of Mexico “to identify and notify the families of all the deceased.”
On Monday, the local Mexican consulate general’s office announced it believes that seven of the eight people who drowned off the San Diego County coast were Mexican nationals, based on the identification some of them carried.
The boats were believed to have carried 15 people.
U.S. Coast Guard spokesman Adam Stanton said Monday that search efforts were suspended at 4 p.m. Sunday.
The Consulate General of Mexico in San Diego said it “deeply regretted this tragedy” and “as soon as there is confirmation from the coroner’s office in this regard, it will be informed to their relatives.”
Carlos Gonzalez Gutierrez, the consul general of Mexico in San Diego, thanked the U.S Coast Guard on Monday for its search-and-rescue efforts. He also asked migrants to avoid putting their lives at risk.
“People planning to cross the border into the United States, either by land or sea, should know that human smugglers will take advantage of their need in order to obtain illicit money, distorting reality, creating false expectations and exposing them to high-risk conditions where they may lose their lives,” Gutierrez said.
According to the Consulate General’s office, those seeking information on missing relatives may contact the consulate’s emergency line at 619-843- 6399 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact the Center for Information and Attention to Mexicans in the United States at 520-623-7874.
U.S. Coast Guard officials got a call from the San Diego Police Department at 11:35 p.m. Saturday about a boat landing on Black’s Beach, San Diego Lifeguard Chief James Gartland told City News Service.
At a Sunday morning news conference, Gartland said an unknown person who spoke Spanish called San Diego dispatch and told them about the two vessels, holding a total of 15 people, overturning.
Gartland said no survivors had been found and added, “We lost eight souls.”
Thick fog slowed rescue efforts, but Coast Guard and San Diego Fire- Rescue crews searched the water for potential survivors or victims on Sunday. Lifeguards “did the best we could to recover people from the water, trying to find survivors,” Gartland said.
After an hour of searching for survivors, “we were in recovery mode for five hours after that,” said Gartland, adding that access was difficult due to the tide and coastal cliffs.
Gartland said some boat passengers “may have left the beach, we’re not sure.” He said both vessels were capsized and inside the shoreline when first responders arrived on the scene, which was hazardous due to sand bars and in-shore rip currents.
He explained that long in-shore holes can cause rip currents to pull people back out to sea, adding that surf conditions on Saturday night were only a 3-foot swell.
“This is one of the worst maritime smuggling tragedies that I can think of in California, certainly here in the city of San Diego,” Gartland said.
“This is not necessarily people trying to find a better life,” said Capt. James Spitler, sector commander for the U.S. Coast Guard San Diego. “This is part of a trans-national criminal organization effort to smuggle people into the United States. These people are often labor-trafficked and sex- trafficked when they arrive.”
San Diego Fire-Rescue officials said the lifeguard dispatcher used GPS coordinates from the reporting party’s cell phone to establish a location, about 800 yards north of the base of Black Gold Road. The first lifeguard unit to arrive couldn’t access the beach due to high tide and headed north, wading through knee- to waist-deep water.
“After a couple hundred yards, lifeguards on the beach reached dry sand and then began to find lifeless bodies and two overturned pangas spread over an area of about 400 yards,” the SDFD stated. “The first lifeguards on scene triaged a total of seven bodies — all were deceased.”
Lifeguards pulled the victims from knee-deep water and the waterline, and onto dry sand. Federal and military responders found the eighth body, the SDFD said. Authorities also found several life jackets and fuel barrels, according to the SDFD.
— City News Service, Inc.