A U.S. patrol plane crew alerted Costa Rican and Panamanian law enforcement Tuesday and set off an international collaboration that ended in the sinking of a semi-submersible drug ship and the death of its captain, said security officials.
The drama played out about 40 miles off the Caribbean coast at Sixaola. The semi-submersible crew was braving three-meter waves and attempting to avoid capture. They were not successful, and the fiberglass craft sank with perhaps seven tons of cocaine in waters 3,000 feet deep, said security ministry officials.
Three men on the craft were saved by the Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas, whose patrol boat, ” Punta Burica 65-4″ was first on the scene. Later a U.S. craft arrived as well as one from Panamá. Since the sinking happened in waters of Panamá, the three suspects and some 74 kilos of cocaine found floating near the scene were turned over to law enforcement in Panamá.
Colombian drug smugglers are using submarines and these low-profile semi-submersibles to evade ocean patrols. This may have been the first boat of it type encountered in the Caribbean near Costa Rica.
In other anti-drug action, Judicial agents made two major confiscations on highways in Costa Rica Tuesday, according to reports from the Judicial Investigating Organization.
Agents captured two men with $650,000 in one case and three men with half of a metric ton of cocaine in the other, they said.
The first case occurred Tuesday afternoon when narcotics officers pulled over a truck driven by two men near Zurqui north of San José, according to a judicial bulletin.
Officials said that when police opened the cargo section of the truck, they found approximately $650,000, mostly in American dollars, in dozens of packages covered with a tarp.
A judicial spokesperson identified the two men by their last names and ages, which are Abarca González, 38, Sandi Hernández, 30.
Officials said that Abarca was part of an organization that was dismantled in 2006 when police raided its headquarters in Cartago and confiscated $2 million and 1,400 kilograms or 3,100 pounds of drugs.
Narcotics investigators made the second bust at about 8 p.m. that evening in the area of Carmen de Siquirres, a report said.
Police detained three men in that bust, according to the spokesperson. They were identified by the last names and ages as Espinoza Ulloa, 36, his son Espinoza Jiménez, 18, and a nephew Vega Jiménez, 28.
Police stopped a truck with one driver along with a car with the two other suspects that were escorting the truck, officials said. The men unsuccessfully tried to flee in the car.
Once they stopped both vehicles, agents said they found 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds) of cocaine hydrochloride in the walls of the truck as well as a 9 millimeter pistol and a .40 caliber pistol with the other two men.