An empty panga was found on Mission Beach in San Diego Friday morning with about a dozen life jackets inside, U.S. Coast Guard officials said.
The small boat was found on the shores near El Carmel Place at around 5:40 a.m. The area is in El Carmel Point, just north of Bahia Point.
There were no signs of any passengers.
San Diego Lifeguards were seen near the beached vessel.
The U.S. Coast Guard said the boat is suspected of being used for human smuggling – the latest attempt in an increase of these types of maritime incidents in San Diego this month.
Just one day prior, a panga – also suspected of being used to smuggle people into the U.S. illegally – was spotted off the shores of La Jolla. It had been carrying at least 16 people, many of whom jumped off the boat and into the water near Marine Street Beach early Thursday. One person died and eight others were hospitalized.
This past Monday, the U.S. Coast Guard pulled 23 people from a panga off the coast of Point Loma after the boat got itself stuck in the surf line. The people aboard that panga were in the U.S. illegally, officials confirmed.
CBP said there were two other incidents in the last 7 days. A pleasure craft-type boat was stopped near the coast of Point Loma with 10 migrants on board on Friday, May 14. And, on Saturday, May 15, a panga came ashore near Sunset Cliffs with 14 people on board.
On May 2, three people died and 29 (including the captain) were rescued from the choppy waters when a packed boat used in a suspected human smuggling attempt capsized and broke apart in the surf.
The maritime human smuggling attempts are certainly a problem for authorities in San Diego.
“It’s definitely something that we’ve seen an increase of over the past couple of fiscal years," U.S. Border Patrol Agent Jacob Macisaac said at a briefing Thursday, following the panga incident in La Jolla.
"Last fiscal year was actually a record year for maritime apprehensions with 1,273 apprehensions in the maritime environment. This fiscal year, which won’t end until the end of September, we’re already approaching 1,100 so we’re on pace to break that record again,” he added.
Officials did not immediately release further details about the panga in Mission Beach; check back for updates.