Friday, June 22, 2018     Volume: 19, Issue: 16

Santa Maria Sun / Breaking News

Homeland Security officials confirm a panga boat crashed near Vandenberg Air Force Base

By Amy Asman

The boat carrying at least $1 million worth of marijuana that washed up on Wall Beach near Vandenberg Air Force Base on March 7 is a panga boat, U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials confirmed on March 8. Dave Wales, the ICE agent in charge of the investigation, said the contraband marijuana weighed in at approximately 1,728 pounds.

Base personnel found the 25-foot boat turned upside down on the beach. Its single outboard motor, which had been ripped from the back of the boat, was discovered nearby "broken into pieces," Wales said. But that wasn't the only find of the day.

"A short distance away ... I'd say no more than a quarter of a mile in a ravine, we found the marijuana," he said. "It'd been stacked up and it looked like someone had tried to camouflage it with seaweed and other vegetation from the beach.

"It was kind of sticking out like a sore thumb," he said.

Because of the condition in which the boat was found, local law enforcement searched the water and shore near the crash site for people, but came up empty handed. Wales said it's believed whoever was in the boat made it safely on to shore and then transported the contraband to the ravine in hopes of hiding it.

"My guess is they had engine problems and they were tossed about until the boat came ashore or they landed in the wrong place," he said. This is the first known crash of a panga boat on Vandenberg Air Force Base property. ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice said a panga boat was discovered at the Seal Beach naval weapon station last year.

Civilians who see any suspicious activities in remote offshore areas are asked to make a report to local law enforcement.

Sore thumb:
The people who crashed their panga boat on Wall Beach attempted to hide their cargo—1,728 pounds of marijuana—in a nearby ravine and camouflage it with seaweed.

It's a panga:
A panga boat, a small schooner typically used to traffic people or drugs into the United States, crashed on Vandenberg Air Force Base's Wall Beach on March 7.

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