Coast Guard ends search for migrants of capsized vessel off the British Virgin Islands

144 Cape CodSAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Coast Guard rescue crews ended a four-day search Saturday for possible survivors of a migrant vessel, which reportedly capsized sometime between the night of July 9, 2016 and Monday morning in waters between the British Virgin Islands and the Caribbean island of Saint Maarten.

Search efforts by rescue crews yielded no signs of additional survivors.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and loved ones of those lost in this tragic incident,” said Capt. Robert W. Warren, Commander of U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Juan.

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.

Rescue units collectively searched over 70 operational hours and completed 20 search patterns covering approximately 10,538 square nautical miles, an area approximately the size of the state of Maryland.

Coast Guard watchstanders in Sector San Juan were notified by British Virgin Islands authorities and family members Wednesday morning of the vessel capsized at sea.  One of the survivors reported that the migrant vessel had departed Saint Maarten the night of July 9, 2016 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 after the vessel started taking on water.

An HC-130 aircraft from the 920th Rescue Wing’s 39th Rescue Squadron with a team of Pararescue Jumpers from the 308th Rescue Squadron from Patrick Air Force Base flew in support of search efforts Friday, while a WC-130 aircraft from the Puerto Rico Air National Guard’s 156th Airlift Wing searched Saturday.  The Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard supported search efforts with a dash-8 maritime patrol aircraft, while Virgin Islands Search and Rescue units in the British Virgin Islands and National Park Service Rangers in Saint Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands conducted shoreline searches for possible survivors.

Coast Guard assets involved in the search:

  • A HC-144 Ocean Sentry maritime patrol aircraft
  • Coast Guard Cutter Heriberto Hernandez
  • MH-65D Dolphin helicopters from Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen
  • 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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