Navy, Coast Guard intercept California coast cocaine smugglers
The drug traffickers were initially detected by marine P-3 aircraft
A suspected drug smuggler who jumped from his burning vessel, is pulled aboard the U.S. Navy coastal patrol ship, USS Zephyr after the craft caught fire during a high-speed chase. A U.S. Coast Guard air and marine operations P-3 aircraft, and a Colombian Naval vessel, the ARC 07 de Agosto, assisted in the interdiction. Photo courtesy U.S. Coast Guard
Four suspected cocaine smugglers rescued, detained; half-ton of drugs confiscated
PACIFIC OCEAN — The Joint Interagency Task Force-South, involving the U.S. Navy, and Coast Guard; and Colombian Navy, intercepted a suspected drug-smuggling boat in early April in the international waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean.
Four suspected smugglers were rescued from a custom-made, high-speed motorboat, which burst into flames following a high-speed chase by the Cyclone-class coastal patrol ship USS Zephyr, Colombian Naval vessel, the ARC 07 de Agosto, while a U.S. Coast Guard air and marine operations P-3 aircraft flew overhead.
Naval personnel boarded the craft after extinguishing the fire and discovered 1,080 pounds of cocaine hidden in the hull. The boat was then sunk as a hazard to navigation.
“There was no doubt in our minds what needed to be done to salvage the evidence needed for a successful prosecution even if it meant laying Zephyr alongside a burning hull, with the intense heat and acrid smoke hindering our 90-minute firefight,” said Lt. Cmdr. Grant Greenwell, the commanding officer of the Zephyr.
The drug traffickers were initially detected by the P-3 aircraft despite the boat’s low radar signature. The P-3 crew reported the craft to Joint Interagency Task Force-South, which vectored the Zephyr to make the interdiction.
As the Zephyr changed its course to intercept the vessel, the suspected cocaine smugglers allegedly began jettisoning their cargo and jumped into the water as their boat caught on fire.
A U. S. Coast Guard law-enforcement team in an interceptor boat launched from the Zephyr interdicted the boat and took the men into custody.