SAN DIEGO – Following an hour and half search Sunday by the crew aboard a U.S. Customs and Border Protection helicopter, three people attempting to enter the U.S. illegally were rescued from near the top of Otay Mountain in San Diego County.
At about 5 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 27, one member of a group of three people attempting to enter the U.S. illegally called 911 to report that at least one member of their group appeared to be in medical distress, and to ask for help.
After receiving the information and request for assistance, CBP Office of Air and Marine launched an A-Star helicopter out of the Brownfield Air Unit near San Diego to search for the people, with an Air Interdiction Agent piloting as well as a U.S. Border Patrol agent, a member of the Border Search Trauma and Rescue team, on board.
Although the helicopter crew was indirectly in communication with the group of three, the search took an hour and half, in part because the individuals were confused about their actual location. Eventually, what allowed the crew to pinpoint their position was when they used their cell phone to take photos of where they were, which were passed along to the crew in the helicopter. The Air Interdiction Agent recognized the photos.
The group of three was located near the very top of Otay Mountain, in very steep and rugged terrain. After finding the group, the helicopter crew directed USBP agents on the ground to their location. The agents were able to respond and safely brought all three back to a local area station for processing. The agents treated one of the people for dehydration; none required additional medical assistance.
The three people were male Mexican citizens, all without the legal ability to enter the U.S., ages 24, 25, and 49.
“Cell phone technology and cell phone service in border areas have come a long way, and are often used as a lifeline by people trying to cross illegally into the U.S.,” said Hunter Davis, Director of Air Operations for the San Diego Air and Marine Branch. “However, long treks through difficult terrain remain dangerous and put people at risk. Smugglers mislead people all of the time about the dangers of trying to enter the U.S. illegally – the bottom line is that you’re still risking your life.”
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.