Coast Guard ends search for possible survivors of a reported sunken migrant boat

Coast Guard Cutter Winslow Griesser file photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Melissa Leake

Coast Guard Cutter Winslow Griesser file photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Melissa Leake

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Coast Guard rescue crews ended a four-day search Saturday night for survivors of a reported sunken migrant boat in the Mona Passage.

Twelve migrants reportedly remain missing after search efforts revealed no signs of persons in the water nor of a debris field indicative of capsized or sunken vessel.

One survivor, a man of Dominican Republic nationality, who was rescued by the Coast Guard in Mona Passage waters Wednesday night, claimed to be traveling with 12 other persons aboard a migrant boat that was transiting from the Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico, when their vessel sank after becoming disabled and taking on water.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families, friends and loved ones of those who may have been taking part in this reported migrant voyage,” said Cmdr. Beau Powers, Coast Guard Sector San Juan chief of response. “To anyone in the Dominican Republic thinking about taking part or who may know of someone, do not take to the sea! The lives of the people who entrust ruthless smugglers, who are looking to only make profit, are in great danger. These voyages mostly take part in grossly overloaded and unseaworthy boats, that are constantly taking on water and have little or no lifesaving equipment aboard.”

Coast Guard watchstanders at Sector San Juan were contacted via a VHF Channel 16 radio transmission at approximately 7 p.m. Wednesday from the motor tanker Coral Energy, requesting search and rescue assistance in the area after the crew reported hearing voices coming from the water, while the tanker was transiting approximately 10 miles north of Mona Island, Puerto Rico.

The Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Doyle (WPC-1133) diverted to the area and arrived on scene with the tanker, where the rescued man was located by the crew of the tanker Coral Energy. The crew used a spotlight to vector-in the cutter Joseph Doyle to the survivor’s position. The cutter Joseph Doyle came alongside and safely recovered the survivor from the water.

The survivor stated he was able to stay afloat while holding on to two gasoline containers, which caused him to receive chemical burns on his body.

Since Wednesday, Coast Cutter rescue crews conducted 17 air and eight surface searches covering 7,117 square nautical miles within the search area, an area approximately twice the size of Puerto Rico.

Rescue assets participating in the search were:

  • Coast Guard Cutter Winslow Griesser (WPC-1116)
  • Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Doyle (WPC-1133)
  • Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen MH-65 Dolphin helicopters
  • Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew
  • Coast Guard Air Station Miami HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft
  • Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater HC-130 Hercules aircraft
  • Customs and Border Protection maritime patrol aircraft.

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