The fourth panga boat to be discovered near Refugio State Beach in recent months was spotted at around 6:40 a.m. Monday by a motorist on nearby Highway 101. Santa Barbara Sheriff’s deputies and detectives accompanied by personnel with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), California State Parks, and the U.S. Coast Guard responded to find a 30-foot panga abandoned on Tajiguas Beach.
No suspects were located and no narcotics were seized, but authorities found evidence of drug trafficking at the scene, said Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Kelly Hoover. The panga was removed and transported to Long Beach where it was booked as evidence. No additional details on the investigation have been released.
“The Sheriff’s Office Special Investigations Bureau is working with HSI to investigate the increase of ‘Panga’ boat activity in our area,” said Hoover in a prepared statement. The last panga found in the area was on June 17, she noted.
“The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office is asking the public to be aware of the ever-growing problem and to please contact law enforcement to report suspicious boats in the ocean off Santa Barbara County or suspicious activity on Highway 101 where there is coastal/beach access,” Hoover said.