Federal agents in San Diego arrested 72 people who were on panga boats heading north from Mexico to the United States earlier this week, Customs and Border Protection officials said.

Agents from the Air and Marine Operations Team spotted the three boats with their lights off on Monday evening, the agency said in a press release on Friday.

It turns out that the boats were traveling at the same time, but the three ships were miles apart
and were not operating as a convoy, an agency spokesperson said.

At around 2 a.m., officers stopped two of the boats at sea. The third reached shore in the Sunset Cliffs area and its occupants attempted to flee.

Customs officials said one of the officers saw a woman struggling in the water, being run over by the boat and struggling against high tides.

The officer jumped out and pulled the woman to a rocky shore, where another officer raced down the rocks and helped pull her out of the water.

The woman was taken to hospital. A man who was on the boat that reached Sunset Cliffs was also taken to hospital, but an agency spokesperson said it was unclear how he was injured, whether it was produced on or off the boat.

The 72 people detained by the agency were residents of Mexico, customs officials said.

Last year, federal officials in San Diego reestablished a maritime unit to prevent smugglers from trying to smuggle migrants and drugs into the country by sea.

Ocean crossings can be deadly. Last year, three migrants died when a panga boat broke up off Point Loma.