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Woman dies as large group of migrants attempt ocean swim to U.S., officials say


SAN DIEGO — A woman who appeared to be part of a large group of migrants that tried to swim across the U.S.-Mexico border in cold Pacific Ocean waters early Saturday has died, officials said.

The woman, who was not identified, was pronounced dead by paramedics, according to a statement Saturday night from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The migrants, including 25 men and 11 women from Mexico, were taken into custody by the U.S. Border Patrol for processing, the CBP said. Some made it to dry land in the United States and others were rescued at sea.

No injuries were reported among that group.

Border Patrol officials received a report that as many as 70 people were trying to swim from Tijuana to Border Field State Park in Imperial Beach, about 11:38 p.m. Friday, CBP said.

The Border Patrol, U.S. Coast Guard, San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, which includes lifeguards, and California State Parks officials, responded.

The Coast Guard brought two vessels and a Jayhawk helicopter and rescued 13 people in an operation that ran roughly from midnight to noon Saturday, said Coast Guard Public Affairs Specialist 1st Class Adam Stanton.

Those 13 were part of the group of 36 being processed, CBP said. It wasn’t clear if there were more migrants who returned to Playas de Tijuana or who are missing.

The United States’ steel border barrier with Mexico extends about 300 feet into the sea, far shorter than Southern California ocean piers, which might make an ocean passage look easy. But Pacific water temperatures, even when they’re in the low 60s, can be fatal.

The water temperature for the San Diego County coastal areas was in the low 60s early Saturday morning with 2 to 3-foot waves, according to the National Weather Service.

Encounters with undocumented migrants at the southern border passed 1.7 million for the fiscal year that ended in September, an all-time high, according to CBP data.

Some of those migrants have been trying to get to California by sea, often by filling small boats known as “pangas” to dangerously unstable levels and ending up on an unfamiliar beach in San Diego County.

On May 2, a trawler-style vessel carrying 33 people overturned off San Diego, sending the suspected migrants onboard into cold, rough waters. Three people died.

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