U.S. Border Patrol agents and San Diego Lifeguards rescued nearly two dozen migrants trapped in a drainage tube in the Tijuana River Valley area as Thanksgiving storms flooded the tunnels, creating a dangerous environment for both parties.
At 11 p.m. Thursday, a Border Patrol agent discovered three people near a drain two miles west of the San Ysidro Port of Entry in San Diego. The department said the migrants were attempting to enter the U.S. illegally.
The three people told the agent that additional migrants were trapped inside the drainage tube with rising water inside after inches and inches of rain pelted the county over the two days before.
Additional Border Patrol agents and the San Diego Lifeguard Swiftwater Flood Rescue Team arrived at the scene where screams were heard coming from the tunnel.
“Inclement weather conditions and perilous drainage tunnel water flows, significantly increase the odds of a grim outcome,” said Chief Patrol Agent Douglas Harrison.
Lifeguards pulled one woman out from the drainage tube and to safety. She told officials that there were more people trapped in the tunnel.
"Obviously the smell is awful, but that's not going stop any of us or any of our team from doing what we need to do to save a life," San Diego Lifeguard Sgt. Ric Stell said.
The rescue team rescued the remaining people trapped through a nearby access manhole.
At this point, 17 people were rescued from the area. Seven of them were transported to a hospital for potential injuries suffered in the journey.
San Diego Fire-Rescue also responded to the scene and by 11:50 p.m. cleared the drainage system and left the scene.
At 1 a.m. Friday, Border Patrol agents heard a woman yelling for help in the same tunnel. SDFD and lifeguards returned to the scene to assist Border Patrol for a second time. The woman was rescued, and two more migrants were found near the exit of the drainage tube.
In total, 20 people were rescued at that point. Of the nearly two dozen migrants, 15 men, three women, and a boy were from Mexico, and one man was from Guatemala. Agents processed all 20 for reportedly entering the U.S. illegally.
“These dangers are not important considerations to smugglers, who place an emphasis on profit over their victims’ safety. Simply put, it not worth crossing the border illegally and risking one’s life,” Harrison said.
At 2:40 a.m., a Border Patrol agent discovered a body in the water line on the beach near the western end of the mouth of the Tijuana River.
The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department responded to the scene and took control of the investigation into the body.
At this time, it is unclear if the body is related to the reported smuggling efforts earlier in the night.