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11 arrested, pot seized after panga lands near Santa Barbara

December 12, 2012 |  1:50 pm

Law enforcement personnel remove items from a boat in Santa Barbara County
Authorities arrested 11 people and seized 3,000 pounds of marijuana aboard a panga that landed Wednesday morning up the coast from Santa Barbara.

About 12:15 a.m., the Coast Guard was tracking an open panga boat as it navigated the waters between San Nicolas Island and the Santa Barbara County coastline. It notified the county sheriff's office, which summoned help from state and federal agencies, according to a sheriff's office spokesman.

As a Coast Guard helicopter lighted up the Gaviota beach at Hollister Ranch Road about 2 a.m., officers discovered eight people hiding in the brush. The panga, with its load of marijuana, was found beached nearby. Another three people believed to be associated with the boat were arrested as they walked on the beach several hours later.

All were turned over to investigators for the Department of Homeland Security.

The incident follows the Dec. 2 death of a Coast Guardsman in the attempted capture of a panga boat off Santa Cruz Island. Last Monday, authorities detained 25 passengers on a panga that drifted ashore in Rancho Palos Verdes. The same day, police in San Diego's Carmel Valley arrested 16 people, some in wet clothing caked with sand, whom they suspected of coming illegally from Mexico by sea. 

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-- Steve Chawkins

Photo: Law enforcement personnel remove evidence from boat that came ashore between Gaviota and El Capitan state beaches Wednesday. Authorities say 11 people have been arrested and 3,000 pounds of marijuana have been seized. Credit: Scott Steepleton / The News-Press

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