A group of immigrants setting out to reach the United States by sea met tragedy when their boat capsized before dawn on Saturday, January 16th. The group had hoped to evade Border Patrol agents on land by traveling in a mid-sized boat, slightly over 30 feet long. Despite its size, the boat had to fit approximately twenty-three people and cope with turbulent waters. Coast Guard officials suggest that uncommonly strong waves developing in anticipation of El Niño may have caused the boat to capsize near San Diego. These waves reached a height of up to six feet and may have caught the boat’s navigators by surprise.
Though fourteen people were rescued, some of them had to be hospitalized and one died Sunday. In addition, authorities say nine other people are still missing. Because all of the boat’s passengers are Mexican nationals, except for one Guatemalan woman, Mexican diplomatic officials frequently communicated with U.S. authorities throughout the weekend to express concern for the immigrants’ well-being and inquire as to new developments.
The U.S. Coast Guard launched a search and rescue mission in hopes of finding the nine individuals. The search involved three helicopters and dozens of individuals. Though they found several life jackets floating in the water, they were unable to locate any of the missing individuals and ultimately suspended the search. It is currently unknown whether these nine individuals were able to reach shore or have been lost at sea.