Early in the afternoon of February 10, California Highway Patrol 911 operators notified Border Patrol dispatch about a group of five people in desperate need of medical assistance. Dispatchers deployed agents and a Border Search, Trauma, and Rescue (BORSTAR) team to the area, according to information obtained from San Diego Sector Border Patrol officials.
The agents began a search and rescue operation in the rugged terrain of the Laguna Mountains region. Officials reported the inclement weather led to life-endangering conditions. BORSTAR agents located two men from the group. The men admitted to being Mexican nationals, illegally present in the United States, officials stated.
The men told the agents about three women they abandoned who were “in desperate need of medical attention.” A U.S. Customs and Border Protection helicopter aircrew arrived on the scene and assisted in locating the missing women. The aircrew located the women at approximately 5 p.m. and directed BORSTAR agents to the scene.
When the agents arrived, they found two of the women to be unresponsive with “no signs of life.” The third woman appeared to be going in and out of consciousness. The agents began lifesaving measures on the third woman while other agents started CPR on the two lifeless women. All life-saving efforts failed and the three women died at the scene.
Inclement weather conditions prevented the AMO helicopter crew from being able to hoist any of the patients to safety. Agents were slated to return to the scene on Tuesday to recover the remains of the decedents. Their bodies will be turned over to the Coroner’s Office after being recovered from the mountainous area.
Agents arrested the two Mexican men, ages 22 and 37 on immigration violations.
“This incident that resulted in the tragic loss of lives was totally avoidable,” San Diego Sector Chief Patrol Agent Aaron Heitke said in a written statement. “We have said it many times, do not place your life or the lives of your loved ones in the hands of ruthless smugglers.”
“I am proud of the heroic efforts that these agents and our partners made to locate and provide aid to those in need,” the chief continued. Our agents also put their own lives at risk traversing the dangerous routes that these criminal organizations smuggle people through in an attempt to avoid apprehension.”
During a press conference on Tuesday, Acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan blamed the deaths of migrants being smuggled into the U.S. squarely on the hands of Mexican cartels and transnational criminal organizations engaged in the highly-lucrative business of human smuggling, Breitbart Texas reported. He cautioned migrants that due to changes in policies in the U.S., Mexico, and Guatemala, the dangerous journey is not worth the risk of death and abuse in the human smuggling process.
“Our message is clear — don’t do it,” Morgan stated. “Don’t risk your lives, don’t risk the lives of your family because the game has changed. Eight months ago, your chance of being allowed into the United States was pretty high. That has changed. Catch and release has all but done. You’re not going to be allowed in the United States while you’re awaiting your immigration proceeding. So, it’s not worth the risk like it was.”