Coast Guard continues search for possible survivors of capsized vessel off the British Virgin Islands

Heriberto HernandezSAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Coast Guard rescue crews continue to search by air and sea Friday for possible survivors of a capsized migrant vessel in waters between the British Virgin Islands and the Caribbean island of Saint Maarten.

As of 12 p.m. Friday, since the initial notification and start of the search Wednesday, Coast Guard aircraft and the Coast Guard Cutter Heriberto Hernandez have collectively searched over 34 operational hours and completed 10 search patterns covering approximately 2,384 square nautical miles, an area approximately three quarters the size of Puerto Rico.

Two Saint Maarten and two Cuban migrants who were traveling aboard the capsized vessel were rescued by a Good Samaritan vessel Monday in waters south of Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands and transported to Virgin Gorda, where they were transferred to island authorities.

So far, there have been no signs of additional survivors.  Watchstanders in Coast Guard Sector San Juan are investigating reports of four lifejackets that were recovered Thursday by three vessels in waters south of St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands.

Coast Guard watchstanders in Sector San Juan were notified by British Virgin Islands authorities and family members Wednesday morning that one of the survivors reported the migrant vessel departed the Saint Maarten Saturday night on a trip to St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.  The vessel was carrying 15 Cubans, one Colombian, a Dominican Republic national and two persons from Saint Maarten when it capsized sometime between Saturday night and early hours Monday, after the vessel started taking on water.

The Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard has also been searching with a dash-8 maritime patrol aircraft, while Virgin Islands Search and Rescue units continue to search coastal areas in the British Virgin Islands.  National Park Service Rangers have also searched the shoreline of Saint Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands.

Coast Guard assets involved in the search:

  • A HC-144 Ocean Sentry maritime patrol aircraft
  • Coast Guard Cutter Heriberto Hernandez
  • MH-65D Dolphin helicopters
  • A Coast Guard Auxiliary fixed-wing aircraft

Anyone with information on this case is asked to contact the Coast Guard Sector San Juan Command Center at 787-289-2041.

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