A suspected smuggling boat was ditched onto a Long Beach shore early Sunday, prompting an investigation from authorities as sightings of panga boats have increased in Southern California in recent weeks.
At approximately 12:25 a.m. on Sunday, May 29, the Maritime Coordination Center reported a smuggling boat landing at 8th Place and Ocean Boulevard on Alamitos Beach. A witness told responding authorities that they saw 15 people flee from the boat and walk away in opposite directions toward Ocean Boulevard, according to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesperson.
Long Beach police and fire officials handed the investigation over to CBP, as that agency handles enforcement efforts on illegal immigration.
A CBP Spokesperson said the 25-foot Bayliner was “consistent with signs of a successful human smuggling event from Mexico,” often used to smuggle migrants and narcotics into the United States. Pangas are small fishing vessels powered by outboard motors that are often used by smugglers for their low profile that allows them to go undetected in vast waters, or for their affordability, as they are often abandoned after an operation.
An estimated eight empty fuel barrels were found on board and 15 life vests were recovered, the CBP spokesperson said. No arrests have been made.
Panga boat sightings have increased in recent weeks with multiple sightings in Laguna Beach and Newport Beach. In April, a man died and three men were rescued after a 30-foot panga boat capsized off the coast in San Diego.
Last August, sightings and smuggling activity was increasing in Orange, Los Angeles, and Ventura Counties and CBP responded by highlighting the dangers posed by the criminal organizations operating the boats.
“Smuggling along the California coastline is inherently dangerous and criminal organizations are not concerned with public safety. They see migrants and narcotics as simply cargo,” they wrote.