8 arrested after suspected smuggling boat comes ashore in Imperial Beach

Karen Kucher Contact Reporter

A 19-foot suspected smuggling boat came ashore in Imperial Beach early Thursday and eight people were taken into custody by federal agents, authorities said.

An Imperial Beach lifeguard spotted the pleasure craft coming onto the beach south of the Imperial Beach pier shortly before 8 a.m., and saw a group of people leave the boat and head to a nearby street, said Border Patrol spokesman Victor Pirro.

Border Patrol agents responded within minutes and detained the eight people a couple blocks away on Imperial Beach Boulevard near Second Street, Pirro said.

Members of the group smelled strongly of gasoline, he said.

The 19-foot boat was spotted coming to shore by an Imperial Beach lifeguard shortly before 8 a.m. (John Gibbins/San Diego Union-Tribune)

Seven men and one woman — including two suspected smugglers — were arrested and the boat is being seized, Pirro said. The eight, who all said they were Mexican nationals, will be processed at a nearby Border Patrol station for entering the country illegally.

The boat, which was painted a blueish gray color, was carrying seven 10-gallon fuel tanks. It also had exposed battery wiring and no life vests were seen, Pirro said.

“It was extremely dangerous,” he said. “They all smelled of gasoline and they had exposed wires from the battery. It was very dangerous.”

Officials said it is unusual to see smuggling boats come into shore during daylight hours.