Coast Guard searches for possible survivors of capsized migrant vessel off the British Virgin Islands

Heriberto HernandezSAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Coast Guard rescue crews area actively searching waters between the British Virgin Islands and the Caribbean island of Saint Marteen Thursday for possible survivors of a capsized migrant vessel.

“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.

Watchstanders at Coast Guard 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 Marteen 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 Marteen when it capsized sometime between Saturday night and early  Monday, after the vessel started taking on water.

Watchstanders proceeded to launch a Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen MH-65 Dolphin helicopter and diverted the Coast Guard Cutter Heriberto Hernandez to search for survivors.  Watchstanders issued an Urgent Marine Information Broadcast and Enhanced Group Calling advising mariners and boaters in the area to be on the lookout for survivors. A Coast Guard HC-144 Ocean Sentry and a Coast Guard Auxiliary aircraft are actively participating in the search.

The Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard is also assisting search efforts with a dash-8 maritime patrol aircraft, while Virgin Islands Search and Rescue units are searching coastal areas in the British Virgin Islands.

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

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