Coast Guard suspends search for up to 67 missing Haitian migrants

MIAMI – The Coast Guard suspended its search Wednesday at 5 p.m. for as many as 67 Haitian migrants missing from a grossly overloaded vessel that capsized 2.3 miles southeast of West Caicos, Turks and Caicos Islands, Monday.

Turks and Caicos Islands officials contacted the Coast Guard at 2:52 p.m. Monday to request assistance after discovering a large number of people stranded on a reef.

Of the estimated 200 Haitians aboard the vessel, 118 were safely transported to shore and 15 were recovered deceased.

“The decision to suspend this search is particularly difficult because we believe there were many people onboard this vessel that have not been recovered and are presumed lost at sea,” said Rear Adm. Steve Branham, Seventh Coast Guard District commander. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who were lost.”

“Ill-advised voyages on grossly overloaded vessels are inherently dangerous and should not be attempted,” Branham said. “There are safe and legal ways to immigrate to the United States. When people deviate from these means, tragedies occur.”

During the course of the 52-hour search, Coast Guard crews saturated 1,514 square miles looking for additional survivors.

Participating in the search were:

  • An HC-130 Hercules fixed-wing aircraft crew from Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater.
  • An HU-25 Falcon jet and MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Miami.
  • The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Valiant.
  • Turks and Caicos Islands police officers.

The cutter Valiant is a 210-foot medium endurance cutter homeported in Miami.

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