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Officials search area around empty boat

November 11, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
The Orange County Sheriff's Department and the Coast Guard are searching an area around a boat that was found empty in South Orange County. Authorities are trying to find out what the boat was being used for. They say the 30-foot boat has all the signs of having been used to smuggle people or drugs.

Fishing rods without reels, possibly used as props to make people think its occupants were fishing, extra gas cans, jugs of water and discarded clothing were found on the boat.

"It appeared abandoned, and they made notifications to the Coast Guard, and INS had the park rangers search the beach to see if anyone swam ashore," said David Martin, Orange County Police Department.

The boat was found adrift about a mile from Aliso Creek Beach. It was spotted by a resident in Laguna Beach before 7 a.m. Wednesday.

Authorities say the boat is registered in a village near Ensenada, Mexico, and it may have been stolen.

After searching the water for hours with no sign of people, officials are now trying to figure out how it arrived at its location, and if it may be involved in illegal activity.

Authorities say the boat appears to be reinforced with heavy duty materials with the ability to carry substantial weight.

"Whether they're smuggling people or drugs or whatever they're bringing up the coast, they basically ram them up on the beach, take whatever it is they brought up and scatter, leaving the boat and whatever else is in it," explained Martin.

"It has all the tell-tale markings of that kind of operation," Martin added.

Authorities say INS plans to seize the boat and conduct further investigations thereafter.


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