‘I have to help,’ says sailor who rescued migrants at sea

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Wreckage and debris from a capsized boat washes ashore at Cabrillo National Monument near where a boat capsized just off the San Diego coast Sunday, May 2, 2021, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)

SAN DIEGO – A man accused of piloting a boat overloaded with migrants that crashed into rocks off San Diego's coast and killed three people kneed a U.S. Border Patrol agent in the face who was trying to put a leg shackle on him on the beach, authorities said.

Investigators said in an affidavit filed Tuesday in federal court in San Diego that the agent was not seriously injured but the hit left a red mark on his forehead.

A total of 33 people were pulled from the water after the 40-foot (12-meter) trawling-style boat smashed into rocks and broke apart Sunday, tossing people into the rough sea off Cabrillo National Monument. Besides the three who died, two others were still hospitalized, including one in critical condition.

Investigators say Antonio Hurtado, a U.S. citizen, was piloting the boat, and he was arrested on suspicion of bringing in or harboring undocumented immigrants and assaulting an officer, according to the affidavit. Twenty-one passengers identified Hurtado in a photo lineup as the captain of the vessel.

He was treated in a hospital and turned over to immigration authorities. His lawyer, Melissa Bobrow, declined to comment.

The migrants told investigators they paid between $15,000 and $18,000 each to be smuggled into the U.S. on the boat.

All but one were Mexican citizens, including two 15-year-olds who were traveling alone, a boy and a girl. A Guatemalan man remains hospitalized.

Maria Eugenia Chavez Segovia, 41; Maricela Hernandez Sanchez, 35; and Victor Perez Degollado, 29, drowned after suffering blunt-force injuries to their heads, according the San Diego County medical examiner's office.