Captain of Suspected Human Smuggling Boat in Custody After Boat Overturns

A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter flies over boats searching the area where a boat capsized just off the San Diego coast, Calif., on May 2, 2021. (Denis Poroy/AP Photo)

The man who is suspected to have operated a suspected human smuggling vessel that overturned off the coast of San Diego was taken into custody.

Authorities said that at least four people have died and more than 20 were hospitalized when the boat overturned Sunday.

“Every indication from our perspective is that this was a smuggling vessel to smuggle migrants into the United States illegally,” U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Supervisory Agent Jeff Stephenson said during a news conference Sunday.

Stephenson said that agents are holding the man who is suspected to be the smuggler behind the operation. The suspected captain’s name was not disclosed to the media.

The captain, according to Brandon Tucker, another CBP official, said he is “a bit out of it, but he is speaking to agents on scene.”

“We’re assuming that it was illegal migration, but generally they are smaller, in the 20 to 30-foot range, generally about 20-plus migrants,” he said. “This one was a bit larger than normal, but for overcrowding on these vessels, the unsafe conditions on these vessels, it’s the same, it’s just slightly larger.”

Boat capsizes off San Francisco