Coast Guard rescues 5 from sinking lancha off Texas coast

33-foot Special Purpose Craft-Law Enforcement file photo

33-foot Special Purpose Craft-Law Enforcement file photo

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The Coast Guard interdicted and rescued five people Monday from a sinking lancha off southern Texas.

Coast Guard Sector Corpus Christi command center watchstanders received a notification from a Coast Guard Air Station Corpus Christi HC-144 Ocean Sentry airplane crew of four lancha crews engaged in illegal fishing. Two lanchas were approximately 12 miles north of the Maritime Boundary Line and two crews were approximately 5 miles north of the Maritime Boundary Line.

A Coast Guard Station South Padre Island 33-foot Special Purpose Craft–Law Enforcement crew launched to intercept the lanchas. The SPC–LE crew arrived on scene with the closest lancha, observed that it was taking on water and took aboard the five fishermen.

Coast Guard personnel detained the five fishermen and transferred them to border enforcement agents for processing.

“This case illustrates the dynamic mission set of Station South Padre Island,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Alfredo Benavidez, pursuit coxswain for the case. “The original mission, protection of natural resources, quickly shifted to search and rescue. Fortunately, my crew and I were able to quickly and effectively save five lives and protect our natural resources and ecosystem from illegal poaching.”

A lancha is a fishing boat used by Mexican fishermen that is approximately 20-30 feet long with a slender profile, having one outboard motor, and is capable of traveling at speeds exceeding 30 mph. Lanchas are frequently used to transport illegal narcotics to the U.S. and illegally fish in the United States’ Exclusive Economic Zone near the U.S./Mexico border in the Gulf of Mexico.

If you witness suspicious activity or illegal fishing in state waters (out to 9 miles offshore), please contact the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s “Operation Game Thief” at 1-800-792-GAME (4263). For all suspicious activity or illegal fishing occurring in federal waters (out to 200 miles offshore), please contact the U.S. Coast Guard at 361-939-0450.

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