Sunday, February 14 , 2016, 5:22 am | Fair 55º

Empty Panga Boat Found Abandoned at Goleta Beach

Sheriff's Department officials believe vessel was used for smuggling, but no drugs or suspects are found

Investigators examine a panga found early Friday at Goleta Beach near the UC Santa Barbara campus. Authorities suspect it was used for smuggling, but no drugs or suspects were found.
Investigators examine a panga found early Friday at Goleta Beach near the UC Santa Barbara campus. Authorities suspect it was used for smuggling, but no drugs or suspects were found.  (John Palminteri / KEYT News photo)

By Giana Magnoli, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @magnoli |

A Santa Barbara County Parks Department employee discovered an abandoned panga boat on the shore of Goleta Beach early Friday. The boat was located less than a mile from student dorms at UC Santa Barbara.

Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Kelly Hoover said the 30-foot craft had no evidence of drugs aboard, but it had life jackets, evidence of food and clothing, and more than 15 containers of fuel.

Sheriff’s deputies responded to the scene and later turned the investigation over to the Homeland Security Department, Hoover said.

She said no arrests have been made.

The boat, found by park maintenance employees at 5:18 a.m. Friday, was a small, fiberglass vessel with one outboard motor, said Lori Haley of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. ICE officials are handling the investigation.

The boat had 20 gas cans, 20 lifejackets and wet clothing in it, so it was possibly used to smuggle a load of migrants, Haley said.

ICE is continuously working on the issue of panga smuggling boats making their way up the California coastline and is actively investigating the boat found Friday morning, she said.

In Santa Barbara County alone, there were 20 incidents of panga boats last year. This was the first one discovered this year.

In December, a U.S. Coast Guard crewman was killed and another injured when their boat was rammed by suspected drug smugglers in a panga boat near Santa Cruz Island.

Chief Petty Officer Terrell Horne was thrown from the rigid inflatable boat, which launched from the Coast Guard Cutter Halibut to approach the panga-type vessel suspected of illegal activities.

Horne, 34, of Redondo Beach, died after suffering traumatic head injuries. Other Coast Guard crews were able to stop the fleeing panga boat close to the California-Mexico border, according to the Coast Guard. Two Mexican nationals have been charged in the case.

Shortly afterward, Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, and other Californian congressional delegates wrote a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, asking to be updated on actions taken to combat the increase in panga smuggling along the coast. They also want to know more about how the federal government is working with state and local law enforcement officials.

“(Panga boats) have been found up the California coast as far as San Francisco, and due to the increase in enforcement in the Southern California region an increasing number have also been landing on the Central Coast,” the letter states. “This increase is cause for concern, especially given the possibility for these boats to smuggle more dangerous cargo, like weapons and potential terrorists.

“Unfortunately, it is hard to estimate the true prevalence of these boats as we can only count those intercepted by law enforcement or that are found abandoned on our shores. In that way, the issue could be even worse and yet we know nothing about them.”

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

» on 01.19.13 @ 10:44 AM

Why doesn’t someone introduce the powers to be to web cams strategically placed to record traffic headed North near the Mexico border which can later be used to intercept actual traffic.They could use film which could be used over and over again if nothing appeared on the film. They could be placed on buoys tied down to make them as stable as possible and equipped with night vision so they could be used in some darkness.They could also be used to lure potential traffickers if they suddenly choose to steal the cameras which are very inexpensive today.

» on 01.19.13 @ 04:55 PM

Illegal aliens laughing at American laws, and bringing in Mexico’s garbage.Both people and Drugs.

Thanks libby’s

» on 01.19.13 @ 06:43 PM

Maybe there were one or more pregnant woman on board….just in time to drop anchor in the U.S.
Get ready to put your higher taxes to use….

» on 01.20.13 @ 12:07 AM

Of course there are risks to our country - who knows everything these boats bring? But the anger and slurs exhibited by people like “Overtaxed Taxpayer” (really?) are uncalled for and shameful to say.

These people are for the way-most part NOT “garbage”, and are not a whole lot different from many of our ancestors who quite simply were desperately looking for a better and safer life. Something I’d do in a minute if I were in the any number of situations some of our local Illegals have told me they escaped.

Here’s hoping for improvements to our laws and procedures and priorities to help good people LEGALLY come here and stay and contribute to America.

» on 01.20.13 @ 12:30 AM

A fine essay in today’s Noozhawk by Ms. Dianne Dimond…..

nb: There’s plenty of blame to spread around, @Overtaxed. So maybe look in the mirror when you eat that produce, or hire the Brown Man to trim your bushes.

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