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Migrants calling for help in water off Del Mar rescued after 'dump and run'

Posted at 4:00 PM, Feb 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-28 19:00:25-05

DEL MAR, Calif. (KGTV) -- Authorities rescued several migrants dropped off by a panga boat in the waters off Del Mar Friday morning, but a search continues for at least three people still unaccounted for.

At around 4:30 a.m., multiple agencies including the Border Patrol, San Diego County Sheriff’s Department and San Diego Fire-Rescue Department were summoned to the beach off 11th Street after receiving reports of people in the water calling for help in Spanish.

Rescue crews, including an off-duty lifeguard who happened to be on the beach, went into the water and helped bring the migrants to shore. Some of them were wearing life jackets, authorities said.

Thirteen people were recovered in total. Ten of them were on shore when authorities arrived and another three were rescued by Encinitas lifeguards by boat. All 13 were taken to nearby hospitals to be evaluated for hypothermia, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

As of 1 p.m., crews were still searching for three people who were unaccounted for.

“This is another example of smugglers placing profit over human life. They forced women and children into deep ocean water and abandoned them,” said San Diego Sector Chief Patrol Agent Aaron Heitke. “If not for the actions of our agents and partnering agencies, the results could have been tragic.”

An Encinitas Fire Department chief said a panga boat from Mexico dropped the people off about 200 yards off the shore and left the area, in what is known as a "dump and run."

Authorities have not located the panga boat. A search for the unaccounted people was expected to last several hours and will include a dive team, the fire chief said.

All 13 people, who were Mexican citizens, have since been released to CBP custody. The group included one 15-year-old female, one 13-year-old and one 15-year-old male, two adult females, and eight adult males.