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

Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin rescue Helicopter

USCG file photo

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – U.S. Coast Guard crews are assisting British Virgin Islands authorities in the search for additional survivors from an alleged migrant vessel that ran aground on a reef Monday near the outer entrance of Paraquita Bay in Tortola, British Virgin Islands.

So far, British Virgin Islands’ rescue crews have 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 have accounted for 14 other survivors who are currently detained or receiving medical attention ashore.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the deceased during this difficult time,” said Captain Eduardo Pino, Coast Guard Sector San Juan commander.

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 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 rescue crews aboard Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen MH-65 Dolphin rescue helicopters and the Reef Shark continue searching for possible survivors alongside the British Virgin Islands Drug Squad marine units and British Virgin Islands Search and Rescue crews.

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

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