Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Another smuggler's boat lands off the Palos Verdes Peninsula

By Larry Altman Staff Writer

Los Angeles County lifeguard rescue swimmers signal a boat to tow empty gas cans off the beach near Bluff Cove in Palos Verdes Estates. A 20-foot panga style boat capsized in the surf earlier Tuesday (Brad Graverson/Staff Photographer)
Another Mexican fishing boat possibly used by smugglers was discovered Tuesday capsized at the Palos Verdes Estates shoreline.

About a dozen blue 5-gallon gasoline cans also were found on the rocky shore below the 700 block of Paseo Del Mar, police said.

Rancho Palos Verdes resident George Uraguchi was on his way to paddle board about 6:30 a.m. when he spotted the panga about 30 yards offshore.

"As I was walking down the cliff, that's when I started seeing debris and I saw a life jacket," Uraguchi said. "I saw the overturned boat."

Uraguchi called 911 and paddled out to the boat to see if any people were in the water. He dragged one of the blue gasoline cans back to shore, opened it and saw fuel was inside.

"Along that trail I noticed there were a few shirts that were just soaked that were thrown along the trail," he said. "I pointed that out to the cops."

Police cordoned off the area and checked the shoreline for people, but found no one. Officers also searched for marijuana, but did not find any, Palos Verdes Estates police Capt. Mark Velez said.

"It looks like they are either smuggling people or drugs," Velez said.

Palos Verdes Estates police officers, county lifeguards,
U.S. Coast Guard officers and Harbor Patrol officers were investigating, along with federal Homeland Security agents, Velez said. The boat appeared to be similar to the 25-foot Mexican fishing vessels discovered recently on Palos Verdes Peninsula beaches and in Orange County as smugglers use the ocean to evade tougher conditions at border stops on land.
On May 13, a 25-foot skiff was found abandoned on the same Palos Verdes Estates beach. More than 100 gallons of fuel in 5-gallon

LACo Lifeguards and Sheriff's boats with the submerged hull of a panga-style boat from Mexico that came ashore near Bluff Cove in Palos Verdes Estates early Tuesday morning. (Brad Graverson/Staff Photographer)
containers were on board. Deputies said the boat was not registered in the United States, and the life jackets and materials on board were in Spanish, leading investigators to believe the boat had arrived from Mexico.

On July 1, sheriff's deputies discovered a sinking 25-foot boat and 200 pounds of marijuana at Point Vicente Fishing Access, a cove between the Point Vicente Interpretive Center and Terranea Resort.

Authorities said the boat might have been used as part of a drug- or people-smuggling operation from Mexico.

In addition to the boat and bales of marijuana, deputies found 18 full blue fuel canisters, and yellow raincoats scattered along the beach.

On Sunday, Orange County sheriff's

Sheriff's helicopter flies over the area looking for bodies or other evidence in the area around Bluff Cove in PVE where panga boat came ashore. (Brad Graverson/Staff Photographer)
deputies arrested three suspected smugglers on a small boat from Mexico about a mile from the Newport Beach coastline. 
Lifeguards and Harbor Patrol officers intercepted the boat and arrested the men on suspicion of drug possession, smuggling and trying to illegally enter the United States, deputies said.

Farther up the coast, 15 suspected illegal immigrants were dumped on a remote section of Santa Cruz Island off Oxnard last month. Stranded for three days, the immigrants were rescued July 11 after their 911 call prompted a land and sea search.

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