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4 Dead And More Than 20 Injured After Suspected Smuggling Vessel Overturns In San Diego 

Four people are dead and about two dozen individuals were hospitalized after a suspected smuggling vessel was overturned off the coast of San Diego this past weekend. 

San Diego Fire-Rescue Department spokesperson Monica Munoz spoke with the local media about how they received reports of a vessel that overturned near the Cabrillo National Monument in Point Loma around 10:27 am on Sunday morning. 

James Gartland is the lifeguard chief for San Diego who told reporters that it appeared the vessel hit the reef which caused it to break up, and about 30 people came out of the vessel. 

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“This was a mass rescue operation that turned into a mass casualty incident. By the time first responders arrived, the 40 foot cabin cruiser was broken apart.” 

According to lifeguard lieutenant Rick Romero with San Diego Fire-Rescue, “there were 30 people on the boat, most made it to shore on their own but six people were rescued from the water after a rip current pulled them out to sea.” 

“Our goal was to just rescue everyone we could, we even had a Navy staff member who just happened to be out with his family come and try to save people from the water.” 

“Conditions were pretty rough — 5-6 feet of surf, windy, cold, the water’s around 60 degrees so you get hypothermic pretty quickly,” Romero said.

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The San Diego Fire-Rescue Department said on its incident page: “we responded along with Federal Fire, US Coast Guard and other local agencies. Every indication, from our perspective, is that this was a smuggling vessel used to smuggle migrants into the United States illegally.”

More than 20 people have been transported to local hospitals “including Sharp Memorial, Palomar Medical Center West, Alvarado, UCSD Medical Center (Hillcrest), Grossmont Hospital, Kaiser Clairemont Mesa, Kaiser Zion and Paradise Valley Hospital.” The fire department said it “will not get any updates on the status of patients because of privacy laws.”

The individual operating the boat is currently in custody, and CBP announced this week that it would be increasing patrol operations to deter smugglers. 

“We’ve seen a dramatic increase in the number of maritime smuggling attempts recently. All of these illegal crossings at sea are inherently dangerous, and we have seen too many turn from risky to tragic as smugglers sacrifice the safety of those on board for the sake of profits,” said Chief Patrol Agent Aaron Heitke with CBP’s San Diego sector.

According to Stephenson there has been a 92% increase in maritime apprehensions of smugglers this past year alone.

Drugs

U.S. and China Joint Investigation Leads To Arrests In Massive Fentanyl Trafficking Ring

China and the United States clearly never see eye to eye. However, this week, the two countries worked together to make a big arrest involving a massive fentanyl smuggling ring between America and China. This Thursday, Chinese authorities sentenced one man to death and imprisoned eight others for trafficking fentanyl into the United States (NBC). Initially, the joint effort was in response to President Donald Trump’s public criticism and call to action directed at China to adopt stricter policies regarding drug trafficking, especially when it comes to fentanyl which is responsible for tens of thousands of deaths in the U.S. every year. 

The case started with an arrest in New Orleans in August 2017 that revealed information about a woman in China, known as ‘Diana’, who sold narcotics online and shipped orders to the U.S. That information was passed on by American officials to drug investigators in China, who spent months uncovering a sprawling network of fentanyl labs, producers and dealers,” according to Janis Frayer for NBC

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Police stand guard outside the Xingtai Intermediate People’s court

When a major wire transfer was made to “Diana” this week, authorities had all the information they needed to make a move. The raids made in response to the wire transfer lead to the nine arrests, and brought in over 26 pounds of fentanyl, along with other opioids and records that helped authorities track areas in the United States that the drugs were being trafficked to. More than 50 U.S. residents names and addresses were seized from the “Diana Organization’s” records which lead to three major arrests in the U.S., and 25 new cases to be opened here in America (NBC). 

Tensions between China and the United States have been especially on the rise within the past few months as we are currently in the midst of a massive trade war with the country. Because of this, this collaborative effort between both countries authoritative forces is being eagerly showcased in the media, and rightfully so. America has often criticized China on their laid back approach to drug trafficking and has labeled them as “complacent” so when these arrests were made China made sure that Americans knew how big of a deal it was. 

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Yu Haibin (C), deputy director of China National Narcotics Control Commission (ONNCC), speaks during a briefing in Xingtai

So much so that during the court proceedings this week, China invited groups of journalists to come and cover the hearings to ensure that the news would spread quickly and efficiently as the charges were made. Journalists were also invited to attend a news conference covering the case both before and after the hearings, China provided police escorts for all the journalists to and from the conference and court to show that they were serious and organized about this accomplishment. The case was being presented at a court in Xingtai, which is about 220 miles from Beijing. 

According to NBC’s coverage of the event, the nine defendants were made up of five men and four women, all of which were seated in the courtroom during the entire proceedings, but none were allowed to speak. There were three presiding judges, one of which was responsible for reading out all the details of the case, the charges that were being made for each individual, and what their sentences would be. The leader of the entire smuggling ring was sentenced to death after he serves a two year sentence, his charge was “leading a conspiracy to defy Chinese laws to manufacture and smuggle the drug of fentanyl to the United States.”

“Their measures are very covert, our investigators lack chemistry expertise … it’s definitely hard to identify and verify this type of substance,” Liu Zhiyong, the deputy chief of Xingtai Public Security Bureau told NBC News.

Due to the success of this collaborative effort, there are now two more ongoing joint fentanyl investigations occurring between the United States and Chinese authorities. This effort could help bring down some of the biggest international drug trafficking rings.