Coast Guard suspends search for survivors from migrant vessel off Tortola, British Virgin Islands

Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin rescue Helicopter

USCG file photo

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – The Coast Guard suspended its search Monday afternoon for additional survivors from an alleged migrant vessel that ran aground on a reef shortly after midnight Monday morning near the outer entrance of Paraquita Bay in Tortola, British Virgin Islands.

In total, British Virgin Islands’ rescue crews recovered five bodies including three adults and two children. The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Reef Shark rescued 14 survivors from the water, while British Virgin Islands authorities accounted for 14 other survivors.

A Dutch Dash-8 aircraft crew initially detected the vessel with more than 30 people aboard Sunday night traveling at high rate of speed on a course from the Dutch and French Island of Saint Maarten to the Virgin Islands. The original departure point of the vessel and the nationality of the migrants remains under investigation.

Coast Guard watchstanders in Sector San Juan received a report from the Dutch aircraft and diverted the Coast Guard Cutter Reef Shark to investigate. A U.S. Customs and Border Protection Caribbean Air and Marine Branch Dash-8 aircraft was also launched and relocated the vessel on a course to Tortola. British Virgin Islands Drug Squad Marine units also responded.

The Reef Shark attempted to close the vessel, but was able to come only within a mile before the migrant vessel impacted the reef causing everyone onboard to be thrown into the water.

Coast Guard assets that assisted in the search were:

  • MH-65 Dolphin rescue helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen
  • HU-25 Falcon aircraft from Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen
  • The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Reef Shark

Coast Guard Cutter Reef Shark is an 87-foot Coastal Patrol Boat homeported in San Juan.

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