Coast Guard, Dominican Republic navy nab 2 suspected smugglers and rescue 4 Cubans

7th Coast Guard District NewsSAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Dominican Republic navy crews interdicted two Dominican suspected smugglers, rescued four Cubans and recovered 11 other Cuban survivors and one deceased Cuban from Mona Island and Monito Island, Puerto Rico, following a maritime pursuit of a migrant-smuggling vessel Thursday in the Mona Passage.

“These smugglers showed their ruthlessness and a complete disregard towards the lives, well being and safety of the people they were transporting illegally to Puerto Rico,” said Capt. Drew Pearson, U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Juan commander. “The excellent coordination and response between Caribbean Border Interagency Group partner agencies and the Dominican Republic navy resulted in four lives being saved and the successful interdiction of the smugglers.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Puerto Rico is seeking the extradition of the two smugglers from the Dominican Republic, who are currently in the custody of Dominican Republic authorities.

The crew of a CBP Caribbean Air and Marine Branch maritime surveillance aircraft detected a 25-foot migrant yola (boat) Thursday morning transiting from the Dominican Republic towards Monito and Mona Island, Puerto Rico.

Upon noticing the presence of law enforcement authorities in the area, the smugglers proceeded to cover the migrant vessel with a blue tarp in an attempt to avoid detection and continued to transit towards Monito Island, where several Cubans jumped into the water and were trapped below the island’s cliff waterline unable to reach safety.

The migrant vessel proceeded to transit rapidly towards Mona Island, where the remaining migrants jumped into the water and began swimming towards shore. Immediately thereafter, the suspected smugglers proceeded to flee the scene and head back towards the Dominican Republic with the CBP surveillance aircraft in aerial pursuit.

Meanwhile, the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Cushing arrived to Monito Island, deployed their response boat and combined efforts with the crew of a MH-65 Dolphin helicopter to rescue the four migrants from the cliffside. The helicopter’s rescue swimmer was able to reach the four endangered migrants and pull them to safety, one at a time. The crew of the rescue helicopter hoisted one of the survivors onboard, who required immediate medical attention, and transported him to Good Samaritan Hospital in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. The crew of the Cushing embarked the three other survivors from the cutter’s small boat.

The crew of the CBP surveillance aircraft continued to maintain visual contact with the fleeing vessel, and requested Coast Guard assistance in contacting Dominican Republic authorities to advise them that the suspect vessel was entering Dominican Republic waters.

Coast Guard Watchstanders in Sector San Juan coordinated with Dominican Republic navy authorities, who responded by diverting the maritime interceptor Barracuda. The crew of the Barracuda arrived on scene, interdicted the suspect vessel and apprehended the two smugglers, who were transferred to awaiting authorities in the Dominican Republic.

The crew of a Customs and Border Protection Blackhawk helicopter flew two sorties Thursday to recover the 11 survivors and one deceased Cuban migrant from Mona Island, and transported them the main island of Puerto Rico. The Cushing transported the three other survivors to Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, where they were turned over to awaiting Ramey Sector Border Patrol agents.

The Cushing is a 110-foot patrol boat home ported in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

In July 2006, CBIG was formally created to unify efforts of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Office of Border Patrol – Ramey Sector, the United States Attorney‘s Office (USAO) for the District of Puerto Rico, the USAO for the District of the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico Police Joint Forces of Rapid action (FURA) in their common goal of securing the borders of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands against illegal migrant and drug smuggling.

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