Yecenia Lazcano Soriano, a 22-year-old single mother from central Mexico, wanted to come to the United States in hopes of finding work.
It didn’t happen.
She and seven other people died after two boats capsized off Black’s Beach in San Diego on Saturday night in what authorities described as a people smuggling attempt. Local authorities called it one of the deadliest maritime events in San Diego history.
The San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office identified three of the victims Tuesday: Lazcano; Guillermo Suárez González, 23; and Eloy Hernández Baltazar, 48 years old. All three drowned, the office determined.
Medical examiner investigators continued to work Tuesday to identify the other victims, with the help of the Mexican Consulate General in San Diego.
Lazcano was originally from Tehuacán, in the Mexican state of Puebla, and hoped to find work in the US, according to William Murillo, a New York-based legal adviser who helps migrants. Murillo said that he has been in contact with Lazcano’s family.
Few other details about the victims were available Tuesday.
Murillo said Lazcano’s family and the family of a 39-year-old man contacted his legal consulting firm for help finding his next of kin. Both families had received phone calls from someone notifying them that their relatives had been on a capsized boat. The person he called then hung up, he said.
When the families called the number again, there was no answer, Murillo said. Then the families saw the news about the disaster in San Diego and became concerned.
Murillo said it’s common for smugglers to deliver terrible news and then “disappear” so they won’t be contacted again, leaving families with little information and a lot of anguish.
The family of the missing person had not received any official notification of his whereabouts or destination as of Tuesday afternoon, Murillo said.
According to the families with whom he spoke, several migrants from Santiago Miahuatlán, in the southeast of Puebla, were among the passengers of the two boats that capsized, Murillo said.
San Diego lifeguards and other emergency crews discovered the victims in the water and along the sand at Black’s Beach after a Spanish-speaking woman called 911 around 11:30 p.m. Saturday. The woman said she and seven others were in a boat that washed ashore, while eight to 15 others were in a second boat that capsized.
Lifeguards found two capsized pangas and no survivors, leading officials to believe some people fled before crews arrived.
A search for additional victims, hampered by fog and other weather conditions, turned up no other bodies, authorities said.
“This is one of the worst shipping tragedies I can think of in California, and certainly here in the city of San Diego,” San Diego Fire and Rescue Department lifeguard chief James Gartland said during a press conference on Sunday morning.
Mexican Consul General Carlos González Gutiérrez said in a series of tweets on Tuesday that the office notified the families of the three people identified so far, who confirmed they were all from the state of Puebla. The consulate has been in contact with the Puebla state government and will help return the bodies to the families.
A consulate spokesman said Monday that at least seven of the victims were believed to be citizens of Mexico based on documents they had on them.