Pot Panga Crash
Drug Runners Shipwrecked and Arrested on Santa Rosa Island
Four shipwrecked Mexican nationals are under arrest this week after federal authorities found more than 2,000 pounds of cannabis stashed in a canyon on the south side of Santa Rosa Island. According to United States Customs and Border Protection spokesperson Vince Bond, the four alleged drug runners were picked up on the Channel Island in the early afternoon of March 6 after authorities — shortly after landing their Blackhawk helicopter on Santa Rosa — came across a “large mound of debris that didn’t look natural.” Discovering that the “mound” was actually 46 separate bundles of marijuana totaling some 2,248 pounds (with an estimated street value of $1.2 million), the federal customs and border patrol agents soon found the four suspects hiding in nearby brush.
Authorities had been on the lookout for the suspects since they were spotted two days prior — just before midnight on March 4 — in a 30- to 35-foot panga (a watercraft that Bond said is a “common” mode of transport for both drug and people smugglers). They were seen motoring north in bad weather 46 miles west of Point Loma in San Diego. The crew on the aforementioned Blackhawk spotted debris and fuel cans from the panga near Santa Rosa on Saturday and, upon further inspection, the suspects and the illicit cargo were found.
While such busts are increasingly common closer to the Mexico border, it has been quite some time since something like this has unfolded in the Santa Barbara Channel. “This is the first time in decades that we had a case this far north,” said Bond.