On Wednesday afternoon (November 23), a California resident decided to take a break from the Thanksgiving festivities to spend a relaxing afternoon at sea. While cruising near the U.S.-Mexico border, however, a strange sight caught their eye. There was another boat nearby, its motor clearly turned off. As they looked closer, they realized that the people on board were in distress, the large group “actively trying” to flag them down.
Uncertain of the nature of the stranded group’s predicament, the boater called the Coast Guard rather than approaching themselves. At around 4 p.m., a helicopter crew arrived at the scene, rescue workers dropping down to assess the situation – and what they found was a shocking scene.
As the good samaritan had guessed, the boat was broken down and adrift at sea. Aboard the small boat were 18 severely ill passengers, including at least two small children – a 2-year-old girl and a 4-year-old boy.
Presumed migrants, the passengers explained that they had been stranded for five days, drifting aimlessly in the chilly waters of the Pacific, as reported by the USCG Southern California.
They had no food or water on board, leaving many in critical condition. And to make matters worse, none of the passengers had life jackets and the vessel was slowly taking on water.
Coast Guard Rescues Stranded Boaters From Life-Threatening Situation
Should the boat have continued to sink, the passengers able to swim would have quickly fallen victim to hypothermia. The life-threatening condition can occur in water 70 degrees and below and the sea temperatures were close to 60 degrees.
The Coast Guard’s helicopter crew loaded as many people on board the Jayhawk as it would carry. They then transported seven of the passengers, including the two children, to San Diego. Unable to assist further, USCG Southern California called in the help of the Mexican Navy.
Shortly thereafter, a Naval ship arrived to rescue the remaining eleven passengers. Miraculously, only three of the seven passengers brought to California by the Coast Guard required hospitalization. Those that did were “dehydrated, hungry, and cold” according to USCG officials. By Thursday, however, hospital staff had nursed them back to health. U.S. Customs and Border Protection are currently assessing the case.
Just two days later, the Coast Guard responded to another emergency near the California coast. This time, however, the passengers weren’t as fortunate as those who came before them. Of the ten suspected undocumented immigrants, one drowned and two died as a result of hypothermia after being pulled to shore. Rescue crew members attempted CPR on the two recovered victims to no avail.
The Coast Guard believes the vessel was a panga boat involved in human smuggling. They’ve had experience with the same type of fishing vessel in past human trafficking cases.