SAN DIEGO (KSWB) — Multiple people were seen scrambling across Torrey Pines State Beach after a panga came ashore late Wednesday.
Eric Honkanen said he pulled out his cellphone when he saw multiple people running from the boat onto the beach. He said it was so foggy, he could only make out shadows.
“I notice one person hops off, and they pulled the boat all the way up onto the sand and at that moment I notice all these people start filing off the boat,” Honkanen said. “They looked just like dark shadows from our vantage point and we’re totally bewildered, just like, what are we looking at here?”
Border Patrol said a panga landed on the beach near lifeguard tower 1 around 11:10 p.m.
“Suddenly this large group of people — I don’t know, 20 or 30 people — just file off this boat and bee line it straight to the cliffs and start heading north toward the parking lot where we’re trying to go,” Honkanen said.
Agents discovered an abandoned 20-foot white and grey single-outboard engine panga, along with 19 personal floatation devices and four fuel cans.
“Something we realized when we first started the hike — there was a group of cars parked and we only saw one other person on the hike,” Honkanen said. “But when we got back, all those cars were gone, so you know, we were thinking maybe there was some kind of coordination there.”
Agents say the search of the area yielded negative results. But Border Patrol says it has already seen a 55% increase in maritime smuggling events since fiscal year 2020. If this pace continues, agents expect next year’s numbers to surpass last year’s.
“It was a fun and exhilarating night and it was capped off by something completely surprising,” Honkanen said.
The panga was seized by United States Custom and Border Patrol’s Air and Marine Operations.
The investigation into the incident was ongoing Thursday afternoon.