Officials have identified the three people who were killed when a cabin cruiser capsized in rugged waters off the coast of San Diego over the weekend – a boat suspected of being used for human smuggling.
The San Diego Medical Examiner’s Office released the names of the victims Tuersday:
- Maria Eugenia Chavez-Segovia, 41
- Victor Perez Degollado, 29
- Maricela Hernandez Sanchez, 35
The ME’s office cited each person’s cause of death as drowning and the manner as an accident.
Boat Capsized in Point Loma
Contributing conditions for Chavez-Segovia’s death included injuries to her head and chest. Perez Degollado and Hernandez Sanchez each also suffered injuries to the head, the reports said.
The reports said Chavez-Segovia died at UC San Diego Medical Center; Perez Degollado and Hernandez Sanchez died at the Shelter Island Harbor Police Dock.
The 40-foot cabin cruiser was heading toward the surf near the Cabrillo National Monument Tidepools when it overturned and broke apart along a reef.
Boat Was 'Severely Overcrowded' When It Capsized: Officials
U.S. Custom and Border Protection officials said the boat was “severely overcrowded” and was being used as a vessel to traffic undocumented migrants into the U.S.
The boat didn’t look like a typical panga used for these sorts of operations and it likely blended in with other commercial boats as it made its way along San Diego’s coast Sunday morning, said Jeff Stephenson, a supervising agent with U.S. Border Patrol.
At least 32 people were aboard, including the three people who were killed.
The San Diego Fire-Rescue Department said lifeguards were first alerted of the boat crash at around 10 a.m. Sunday.
SDFD Lifeguard Lt. Rick Romero was the first to respond and sent out a rescue boat. Romero soon realized the capsized boat had broken apart against the rocks inside the surf line and there were dozens of passengers on board.
Romero said the waves were rough and 5 to 6 feet in height.
“There are people in the water, drowning, getting sucked out the rip current there,” Romero explained.
CBP officials were called to take over the investigation alongside other federal, state and local authorities.
The CBP said its officers, plus Air and Marine agents, and U.S. Border Patrol agents traveled with the passengers as they were taken to local hospitals.
The CBP deployed a helicopter and vessel to search the waters for additional survivors; as of Monday morning, the search was called off for additional potential victims.
Officials confirmed 29 people were found alive and three victims had died. As of Monday night, five of the 29 people who survived remained hospitalized.
The CBP said preliminary checks by U.S. Border Patrol agents confirmed that all but two people on the boat were “Mexican nationals with no legal status to enter the U.S.”
One of the two non-Mexican nationals was from Guatemala, with no legal status to enter the U.S. The final person was the captain of the boat – a U.S. citizen – who was turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, the CBP confirmed.
One of the survivors was an unaccompanied 15-year-old boy, the CBP said. The other 28 passengers were 21 men and six women, all between the ages of 18 and 39, according to the CBP.
The investigation is ongoing. Smugglers typically face federal charges in an operation like this and those being smuggled are usually deported.
The Mexican Consulate said that as the survivors are released from the hospital, they will be placed into the custody of immigration authorities.
"The Consulate is in direct contact with the victims and will assist them in their return to Mexico once their processes conclude, giving priority to people who, due to their health condition, present a higher state of vulnerability," the consulate said in a statement Monday.
Days before this deadly boat crash, USBP Chief Agent Aaron M. Heitke said the agency had been seeing an increase in the number of illegal crossings at sea and would be ramping up coastal patrols this weekend as a result.
As warmer weather comes to San Diego, there is a misperception that it will make illegal crossings safer or easier, the agency said in a statement.
In March, 13 people were killed and 13 others were injured when an SUV suspected to be used for human smuggling collided with a semi-truck hauling gravel near the U.S.-Mexico Border in Imperial County east of San Diego County. It was one of the deadliest border-related crashes in U.S. history.
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