The U.S. Coast Guard suspended its search for additional survivors from a capsized vessel in Mona Passage waters off Puerto Rico on Sunday after four days searching thousands of miles of open ocean. Thirty-eight people were rescued.
Coast Guard watchstanders in Sector San Juan received a communication at approximately 11:47 a.m. Thursday reporting that the aircrew of a Custom and Border Protection aircraft had sighted a suspected illegal migrant vessel that had capsized with people in the water who did not appear to be wearing life jackets approximately 12 miles north of Desecheo, Puerto Rico.
Coast Guard watchstanders directed the launch of an MH-60T helicopter from Air Station Borinquen and diverted the Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Tezanos, while Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine and Puerto Rico Police Joint Forces of Rapid Action marine units also responded to rescue survivors.
Rescue crews involved in the search conducted 20 air and 10 surface searches, covering over 5,194square nautical miles, an area larger than Puerto Rico.
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Rescued are 38 survivors, including 36 Haitian and two Dominican Republic nationals. Rescue crews also recovered 11 people deceased, whose nationalities are yet to be determined.
“Our most heartfelt condolences to the families, friends and loved ones of those who did not survive or remain missing, our prayers are with them,” said Capt. Gregory H. Magee, Commander of Coast Guard Sector San Juan.
“I commend all the partner agency crews who responded in this case, their bravery and actions helped save 38 lives from almost certain death, as well as, the air, surface and land-based crews involved in the search. These crews have done their utmost to ensure that if there were anymore survivors, that they would have had the best chance to be rescued,” Captain Magee added.
From October through February, the Coast Guard and its partner agencies carried out 45 illegal voyage interdictions in Mona Passage and Caribbean waters near Puerto Rico, interdicting 1,088 non-U.S. citizens comprised mostly of Dominican Republic and Haitian nationals.
“Unfortunately, as ,” said Captain Magee. “The threat of illegal voyages continues, we could be forced to respond to similar events in the future. The dangers of these voyages are real, we see them everyday, people aboard grossly overloaded makeshift boats taking on water in high seas with little or no lifesaving equipment. These people are at the mercy of ruthless smugglers who are not concerned with their lives or safety. To anyone thinking of taking part of an illegal voyage, don’t take to the sea! It could just save your life.”
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