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SPECIAL REPORT: San Diego Border Patrol highlights dangers of the wilderness

SAN DIEGO, Calif. (KYMA, KECY) - U.S. Border Patrol agents grant us a real life experience unlike any other, giving us an in-depth look at what goes into rescue operations in the wilderness.

A trip to San Diegos side of the border shows us just how vast the border crisis really is. Jeff Stephenson is a San Diego Border Patrol agent, he says that this is the path of a smuggler, but it's also the path of families and kids who dream of life in the U.S.

“I mean, I think the things that are the worse, I have had to carry little kids out of trenches that’s kind of gut wrenching," he said.


Border patrol agents say children are utilized by smugglers as passports. Children have walked even crawled these very harsh terrain.

Hundreds of miles across the U.S-Mexico border consist of deadly desert wilderness. But the idea of life in the United States continues to lure many to take that risk. 

“We have had people go down because of rattle snake bites… during the summer this is extremely common,” John Torres with San Diego Border Patrol said.

In addition, those trying to cross, deal with extreme dehydration. Agent Pitones says, it's a similar condition migrants in our local Jacumba region experience.

“We have seen that smugglers will not hesitate to leave an undocumented migrant behind if they’re slowing down the group, they will leave them behind for dead,” he said.

And in turn, that turns into a rescue mission for agents. San Diego Border Patrol showed me how rescue operations unfold.

Border search trauma and rescue agent Miguel Pena, even told us of his toughest one.

“She called up and said she was lost, cold, she was with a group of 5, when we arrived on scene she was still talking to me, when we started to move she started deteriorating mentally, she couldn’t walk," he said.

Border search trauma and rescue agent Miguel Pena specializes in rescue operations routinely. He says he had to carry the woman the nearest helicopter pad, but it was already too late.

“When the helicopters got here, it started to hail, so they could not land anymore but then, she died in the helicopter,” he said.

From cameras, to K-9's and more recently the rescue beacon, all efforts to help save human lives. Sometimes agents come across footsteps. In those cases they rely on their senses.

In San Diego, the rescue beacon has saved three lives since January 2020. If someone is in distress, they click a button, and agents will be there in minutes.

Across the Otay Wilderness, agents say rescue operations happen almost daily, showing us another side of this ongoing issue.

Across the Otay Wilderness, agents say rescue operations happen almost daily. 

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Wiley Jawhary

Wiley Jawhary is from Orange County California. He joined KYMA/KSWT in April of 2021.

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