At least two people were dead and 27 were hospitalized when a boat overturned Sunday off the San Diegocoast, fire officials said .
The U.S. Coast Guard and other agencies responded around 10:30 a.m. to the Cabrillo National Monument following reports of an overturned vessel near the peninsula of Point Loma, according to the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department.
They rescued 25 people in a “multi medical casualty” incident, SDFD said on Twitter, though they later said in a statement that 24 people were pulled from the water. At least five of those were in “CPR status,” which means they were having trouble breathing, spokesman Jose Ysea told The San Diego Union-Tribune.
“It is very rocky over there, and the waves, while they weren’t too high, they looked pretty strong,” he told the paper, adding that the boat may have been slammed into the rocks.
Two people did not survive, officials said in a statement, while 27 people were transported to local hospitals.
Ysea told The Associated Press that it was possible that the group had been packed in a low-slung panga boat, a type of small motorized vessel often made of wood used by smugglers to bring people illegally into the U.S. from Mexico, but that detail was not confirmed.
Border Patrol often spots pangas off the San Diego coast.
Federal agencies, including Customs and Border Protection, were still searching the water in vessels and aircraft Sunday afternoon. The incident occurred in federal water jurisdiction, reported KGTV.
The Cabrillo National Monument is a California Historical Landmark commemorating the first time a European expedition ever landed on what became the West Coast of the U.S.
Border Patrol on Friday said law enforcement officials would be ramping up operations to disrupt maritime smuggling in the area this weekend. On Thursday, border officials intercepted a panga-type vessel traveling without navigation lights 11 miles (18 kilometers) off the coast of Point Loma with 21 people on board.
Agents determined all were Mexican citizens with no legal status to enter the U.S., according to a statement released by Customs and Border Protection.
The area has also seen several boat incidents in recent years.
In July, an amphibious assault ship caught fire at Naval Base San Diego resulted in an onboard explosion that injured 63 people and filled the skies with dark smoke, according to officials.
And in August, another amphibious assault ship sank by San Clemente Island in the area, killing nine servicemen.
Contributing: The Associated Press