At least eight people were killed after two boats capsized overnight near the shore of Black’s Beach in San Diego County, as rescue crews continued their search on Sunday for additional missing victims, the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department said. 

Shortly before midnight on Saturday night, the San Diego Fire-Rescue Lifeguard Division received a 911 transfer call from a Spanish-speaking woman who said she had been on a panga with 15 people and had made it to the shore at Black’s Beach after overturning in the surf, San Diego Fire-Rescue Department Lifeguard Division chief James Gartland said on Sunday. 

The woman said that another panga with eight people had capsized and victims were in the water, according to fire officials. 

Officials have not confirmed the nationalities of the victims. The San Diego Fire-Rescue Department Lifeguard Division has seen a 700% increase in human trafficking, Gartland said.

Boat salvager Robert Butler picks up a canister in one of one of two boats sitting on Blacks Beach, Sunday, March 12, 2023, in San Diego.

Gregory Bull / AP

Multiple agencies, including the San Diego Fire Department Lifeguards, Customs Border Protection and the U.S. Coast Guard all responded to the scene, but rescue officials had difficulty accessing the beach because of the high tide and were forced to continue on foot wading through “knee to waist deep water,” according to fire officials.

“After a couple hundred yards, lifeguards on the beach reached dry sand and then began to find lifeless bodies and two overturned pangas spread over an area of about 400 yards,” fire officials said. 

The first lifeguards on the scene recovered seven bodies, and an eighth body was found by CBP Air and Marine Operations officers, fire officials said. The eight victims may be from both vessels, according to Gartland. 

Also found at the scene were several lifejackets and fuel barrels, fire officials said. 

The victims, who were all adults, were turned over to the SD County Medical Examiner, according to fire officials.