Around 7:30 p.m. PT Monday, Chief Patrol Agent Aaron Heitke tweeted that rescue efforts were underway in the Laguna Mountains about 35 miles from the Mexican border for five people “after they got lost trying to cross the border illegally.” Members of the group were suffering from hypothermia and called 911, Heitke said.
During their search, Border Patrol agents found two men from the group near Cuyapaipe Indian Reservation in Mount Laguna, who notified them that the women they were with needed medical attention, according to a Tuesday press release. By 7:26 p.m., after “all lifesaving attempts were exhausted,” all three women had died, according to the CBP.
Due to the weather — Mount Laguna received seven inches of snow by Monday at 4 p.m., according to the National Weather Service — the bodies have not yet been recovered. CBP press officer Ralph DeSio told VICE News on Wednesday that two attempts were made to recover the bodies on Tuesday but were abandoned due to high winds, and that another attempt would be made by the San Diego County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday.
The two people who survived were identified only as a 37-year-old man and a 22-year-old man, both Mexican nationals, and the CBP said they were arrested and “taken to a nearby station for processing.”
The number of reported border crossing deaths ticked upward from 283 deaths in 2018 to 300 people in 2019, according to numbers released by the CBP last year. And although the San Diego sector is much less dangerous than others across the Southwest, such as the Rio Grande Valley, seven people in the CBP’s San Diego sector died in 2019, according to the same statistics.
“The deaths that happen in the deserts and mountains, Border Patrol always says it’s a ‘tragic loss of life,’ but that’s really hard for us on the ground to accept considering this is an intended effect of their policies and actions,” Jacqueline Arellano, a co-director of the water drop program for the advocacy group Border Angels, told VICE News. “People wouldn’t have to go through this rugged terrain if the policies weren’t maintiained.