Two capsized smuggling boats off the coast of San Diego left at least 8 people dead, officials said Sunday, in what now amounts to one of the deadliest maritime human smuggling incidents in U.S. coastal history.

San Diego emergency crews began a search and recovery operation late Saturday night, after receiving a frantic 911 call from a Spanish-speaking woman saying that a boat carrying eight to 10 people had overturned and that victims were in the water near the city's Torrey Pines neighborhood.

Once rescuers arrived at San Diego's Black's Beach, access to the area was "very difficult" due to the uneven tide and coastal cliff, San Diego Fire-Rescue Department Chief James Gartland said during a Sunday press briefing.

Rescue crews arrived to find two fishing boats capsized in a 400-foot area, with eight bodies recovered from the water and beach.

"This is one of the worst maritime smuggling tragedies that I can think of in California, certainly here in the city of San Diego," Gartland said.

No survivors were discovered during the search, including the woman who made the emergency call, and the bodies of all of the victims were turned over to San Diego County Medical Examiner, a spokesperson for the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department told NPR.

Officials have not released any information explaining why the boats may have capsized or any links between the boats and known human smuggling organizations but did note that the area where the boats failed is common for incidents like this.

"You could land in some sand or get to waist-high, knee-high water and think that you're safe and be able to exit the water, but there's long inshore holes," Gartland said. "So, if you step into those holes, those rip currents will pull you along the shore and back out the sea."

At least some of the victims were Mexican, according to the Associated Press.