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First Responders Rescue 5 from Otay Mountain

Release Date: 
March 20, 2020

SAN DIEGO, Calif.—U.S. Border Patrol agents working alongside Air and Marine Operations (AMO), San Diego Fire Department, and Cal-Fire, helped rescue five people after receiving a distress call Wednesday night.

The incident began on March 18 at approximately 9:30 p.m. when members of San Diego Sector’s Foreign Operations Branch (FOB) received a phone call from a group of Mexican nationals who said they were lost and cold in a mountainous area near the border.  The FOB team, who works closely with stake-holders and law enforcement in Mexico, contacted SDC’s Border Patrol Search Trauma and Rescue (BORSTAR) team.

The BORSTAR team and assets from AMO joined efforts to locate the group.  After several hours of coordination between FOB, BORSTAR, and AMO, the group was located at approximately 1:00 a.m. in an area referred to as Colonel’s Ridgeline.  The area is rugged, mountainous, and located about two miles north of the U.S/Mexico International Boundary and three miles east of the Otay Mesa Port of Entry.

The group of five were determined to be Mexican nationals illegally present in the U.S.  During their initial medical evaluation, an 18-year-old female in the group displayed signs of hypothermia and was in and out of consciousness.  Using life-savings techniques, including cardiopulmonary resuscitation, BORSTAR agents stabilized the woman and prepared her for transport. 

A Border Patrol BORSTAR agent administers CPR on a woman who is near death.
A Border Patrol BORSTAR agent administers
CPR on a woman who is near death.

Due to inclement weather and low visibility, air asset extraction of the woman at the spot of her injury was not possible.  Therefore, several agents carried her up extremely rugged terrain to a fire-break road where air assets could safely land.  Using San Diego Fire Department air assets, the woman was transported to a local hospital for further care.

The four remaining people in the group were men, which included a 17-year-old boy.  They were guided safely to nearby vehicles and driven to a local Border Patrol station for processing.

The woman is in critical condition at the hospital and remains unconscious. FOB is coordinating with the Mexican Consulate to locate and contact the woman’s family because of the dire circumstances.

“We have said it many times, do not place your life or the lives of your loved ones in the hands of ruthless smugglers,” said San Diego Sector Chief Patrol Agent Aaron Heitke. “I am proud of the heroic efforts that these agents and our partners made to locate and provide aid to those in need.  These criminal organizations smuggle people through dangerous routes in an attempt to avoid apprehension.” Chief Heitke continued, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the woman and her family during this difficult time.”

In fiscal year 2020, U.S. Border Patrol agents have recorded 36 rescues of individuals in the San Diego Sector.

San Diego Sector Border Patrol reported several recent smuggling incidents requiring mountain rescues, some which also had loss of life: 

Severe Weather and Harsh Terrain Claims 3

Border Patrol Rescues Two Lost Deep in Mountains


To prevent the illicit smuggling of humans, drugs, and other contraband, the U.S. Border Patrol maintains a high level of vigilance on corridors of egress away from our Nation’s borders.  To report suspicious activity to the U.S. Border Patrol, contact San Diego Sector at (619) 498-9900.

Last modified: 
March 20, 2020