SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Coast Guard rescue crews rescued 49 Haitian migrants and two Dominicans from a sinking boat Tuesday night, 11 nautical miles northwest of Mona Island, Puerto Rico.
The search for possible missing survivors continues as Coast Guard rescue crews continue to interview survivors to account for all the passengers travelling aboard the migrant boat.
“While our search efforts continue the lives of 51 have been spared so far due the rapid response of our Coast Guardsmen,” said Capt. Drew W. Pearson, Coast Guard Sector San Juan commander. “It appears these individuals put their lives into the hands of ruthless smugglers who took them on a perilous journey in an unseaworthy vessel and with no life saving equipment. While it appears death has been averted this time, those who put their lives in the hands of smugglers may not be as lucky in the future.”
The crew of a patrolling HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft from Coast Guard Air Station Miami detected at 8 p.m. Tuesday a grossly overloaded 20-foot wooden migrant boat taking on water as it transited towards Mona Island, Puerto Rico. The Coast Guard aircrew observed the people onboard the migrant vessel dumping buckets of water overboard in an attempt to dewater the vessel.
Sector San Juan watchstanders diverted the Coast Guard Cutter Richard Etheridge to interdict and rescue the migrants, while a Coast Guard MH-65C Dolphin helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen was also launched to provide rescue assistance.
The Richard Etheridge deployed their 26-foot Over the Horizon Mark IV cutter boat as they arrived on scene with the migrant vessel that was rapidly taking on water and sinking. Several of the migrants abandoned the boat and jumped into the water as the crews of the Richard Etheridge and the cutter boat delivered lifejackets to the migrants and recovered 40 men and 11 women from the sinking vessel and the water.
“Thanks to rapid deployment of lifejackets by the crew of the Richard Etheridge, many of the migrants rescued were able to survive,” said Jaime Balzac, Sector San Juan Command Duty officer.
The crew of the Coast Guard MH-65C Dolphin helicopter medevaced one Haitian migrant, who suffered a seizure aboard the Richard Etheridge following his rescue, and transported him to Air Station Borinquen in Aguadilla, where he was transferred to awaiting Emergency Medical Services personnel and Ramey Sector Border Patrol agents for further transport to a local hospital.
Coast Guard rescue crews are currently on scene searching in case any possible additional migrants remain missing.
The Coast Guard Cutter Richard Etheridge is a 154-Fast Response Cutter homeported in Miami.