The man accused of being the captain of a panga carrying dozens of undocumented migrants that crashed amid the rough waters and killed three people was arraigned Tuesday on an indictment by the federal grand jury the charging with two dozen counts.
Authorities said Antonio Hurtado, a 39-year-old U.S. citizen, was behind the wheel of a 40-foot trawler-style vessel carrying 32 other people at the end of May 2 as part of a trip to smuggle smuggling undocumented migrants to the US border patrol. that besides Hurtado, the boat’s passengers included 31 Mexican nationals and one Guatemalan national.
The indictment against Hurtado includes charges of attempting to bring in illegal aliens resulting in death and attempting to bring in illegal aliens for profit in connection with the fatal accident. He also remains charged with assaulting a federal agent for allegedly hitting a border patrol officer with his knee after his arrest.
U.S. trial judge Michael S. Berg pleaded not guilty on behalf of the accused Tuesday morning in federal court in San Diego.
According to an affidavit, the migrants who were on board the boat said they
paid between $ 15,000 and $ 18,500 to be smuggled into the United States and
identified Hurtado as the ship’s captain.
The smuggling plan was thwarted in the early hours of May 3, the morning after those involved left for the United States, when the “severely overcrowded” boat capsized in the rugged waters off Point Loma. All the occupants jumped into the water when the boat sank.
When the U.S. Coast Guard and San Diego rescuers responded to the scene, they saw people drowning in waves 5 to 6 feet high, according to SDFD rescuer Lt. Rick Romero.
A total of three people drowned in the incident, the medical examiner’s office said. They were identified as Maria Eugenia Chavez-Segovia, 41, Victor Perez Degollado, 29, and Maricela Hernandez Sanchez, 35, all Mexican citizens.
All of the surviving passengers, including Hurtado, were taken into U.S. Customs and Border Patrol custody.
Hurtado’s alleged attempt came amid several human trafficking attempts captured in May.
The accused is due to return to court on July 9.