Boat captain sentenced in fatal smuggling accident

The captain who crashed his boat in the San Diego Reef last year, killing three of the 32 smuggled migrants, was sentenced on Friday to 18 years in prison.

Antonio Hurtado, 40, pleaded guilty in April to felony charges of attempted human trafficking that resulted in death and attempted human trafficking for financial gain related to each of the three migrants who died.

“Thirty-two passengers gave their savings and their lives in the hands of this defendant. Their reckless behavior and grave failure to obtain assistance put each of them at grave risk and the tragic loss of three people,” US Attorney Randy Grossman said in a statement.

“This sentence recognizes the serious nature of these crimes and stands as a stern warning to traffickers: Your profit-driven plans will fail; we will prosecute you for your crimes; and we will bring your victims to justice.” “

According to prosecutors, the smugglers transported three undocumented minors, including undocumented migrants, from Puerto Nuevo, Baja California, Mexico, to Hurtado, near the Corando Islands, where they were waiting with their boat, the Salty Lady.

Each passenger paid between $15,000 and $18,000 to be smuggled into the United States.

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Witnesses told prosecutors, Hurtado “repeatedly used controlled substances and even used controlled substances, while operating the boat through rain and rough scenery, overnight on May 1, 2021, and on May 2. that lost consciousness for more than an hour before the passengers could wake him up.”

When the engines began to fail, Hurtado refused to call the US Coast Guard for help and instead allowed the boat to shore, where it eventually landed near Point Loma.

Instead of staying with the Salty Lady, Hurtado jumped into the water and swam to shore, leaving his passengers helpless.

Eventually, strong surf tore the boat and the passengers were thrown overboard. Park rangers in Cabrillo National Park, on cliff tops, spotted the boat and migrants and called the Coast Guard.

The three passengers, 29-year-old Victor Perez-Degollado, 41-year-old María Eugenia Chavez Segovia and 35-year-old Marisela Hernández Sánchez, suffered blunt force trauma and drowned.

Upon being identified by witnesses as the pilot, Hurtado was taken into custody and taken to a local hospital to be detoxified.

“Human traffickers have no respect for human life, as demonstrated by this defendant,” Special Agent Chad Plantz, of the Homeland Security Investigations San Diego, said in a statement. “The deaths in this investigation could have been prevented if the defendant had not treated these victims as dispensable cargo; HSI would have been able to prevent international criminal organizations attempting to advance their multi-billion dollar venture in San Diego.” won’t tolerate it.”

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