Coast Guard suspends search for possible missing migrants in waters west of Mayaguez, Puerto Rico

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Coast Guard rescue crews suspended their search once 54 migrants were accounted for after the migrant’s yola capsized following an at-sea interdiction Tuesday by Caribbean Border Interagency Group (CBIG) agencies, approximately 13 nautical miles west of Mayaguez, Puerto Rico.

A total of 45 men and nine women are safely onboard the Coast Guard Cutter Key Largo, while CBIG partner agencies are determining the nationalities of the interdicted migrants.

The crew of a U.S. Customs and Border Protection fixed-wing aircraft located a migrant vessel Tuesday morning while patrolling Mona Passage waters. The migrants were traveling illegally to Puerto Rico from the Dominican Republic aboard a 30-foot grossly overloaded wooden yola.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Puerto Rico Police F.U.R.A. marine units responded to the scene, interdicted the migrant vessel and began embarking the migrants due to rough seas and after determining the homemade vessel was unseaworthy. Coast Guard Sector San Juan controllers diverted Key Largo and an Air Station Borinquen HH-65 Dolphin helicopter to assist the marine units on scene.

During the transfer of migrants, the yola capsized throwing an undetermined number of persons into the water. Customs and Border Protection and F.U.R.A. agents recovered the migrants from the water, while Coast Guard aircrews began searching for possible missing persons.

Afterwards, the Coast Guard Cutter Key Largo rendezvoused with Customs and Border Protection and F.U.R.A. marine units, and Key Largo crewmembers safely embarked and accounted for all 54 migrants.

The concept of CBIG resulted from a March 2006 collaboration of local Homeland Security components that effectively stemmed the increased flow of traffic across the Mona Passage between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. In July 2006, CBIG was formally created to unify efforts of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Air & Marine (A&M), Office of Field Operations (OFO), and Office of Border Patrol (OBP), the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) the United States Attorney ‘ s Office, District of Puerto Rico, and Puerto Rico Police Joint Forces of Rapid action (FURA) in their common goal of securing Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands against illegal maritime traffic and gaining control of our nation’s Caribbean borders..

Coast Guard Cutter’s Key Largo is a 110-foot patrol boat home ported in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

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