Medical examiner identifies four bodies found in water 20 nautical miles east of Hollywood Beach, Florida, identified

MIAMI — The remains of four males found floating in the water 20 nautical miles east of Hollywood Beach, Florida, Aug. 24 have been positively identified in a report from the Broward County Office of the Medical Examiner which the Coast Guard 7th District officially received on Sept. 26, 2014.

Following visual confirmation of the tattoos located on the bodies by family members and using DNA received from local relatives of the four deceased, the Medical Examiner’s office determined the remains to be of Guillermo Enrique Buitrago Milanes, 45 years of age; Jose Ramon Acosta, 35 years of age; Alberto Gonzales Mesa, 25 years of age; and Junier Fernandez Hernandez, 32 years of age.

At approximately 10 a.m. on Aug. 24, 2014, good Samaritans contacted Coast Guard Sector Miami watchstanders and reported the bodies of two males floating in the water east of Hollywood Beach. A Coast Guard Station Ft. Lauderdale crew responded to the report and located two additional bodies, all male, and continued to search for 24 hours for any possible people in distress. After a thorough airborne and marine search, no other signs of distress were found.

The bodies were later transferred to the Broward medical examiner’s office where an investigation was immediately launched by Coast Guard Investigative Service, in cooperation with the Broward County Sheriff’s Office.

Coast Guard search assets involved in this case included a Coast Guard HC-144 aircraft crew from Coast Guard Air Station Miami and the Coast Guard Cutter Dolphin. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission also assisted in the search.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and loved ones of the deceased,” said Capt. Mark Fedor, chief of response for the Coast Guard 7th District. “While the investigation has concluded, we will continue to work with our federal, state and local partner agencies to send a clear message to anyone contemplating this dangerous and deadly voyage to reach the U.S. illegally: Don’t do it. Don’t risk your life, or the lives of those you love. Don’t become the next soul lost at sea. While our primary concern is safety, we will also prosecute smugglers to the fullest extent possible.”

On Feb. 6, 2014, four Haitian migrants were found dead 75 miles northeast of West Palm Beach, Florida, after their 24-foot motorboat capsized. On Jan. 30, 2014, a Haitian migrant died and eight others were detained after coming ashore at Fort Lauderdale Beach, Florida. On Oct.16, 2013, four Haitian women died after the motorboat carrying them capsized approximately seven miles off Miami Beach. No one aboard the overcrowded vessel was wearing life jackets.

Sept. 30 marks the end of fiscal year 2014 and the Coast Guard 7th District estimates that 3,722 Cubans, 5,478 Haitians and 601 Dominicans have attempted to migrate illegally via the sea, exceeding the estimated total fiscal year 2013 migrant flow numbers: 2,129 for Cubans, 4,358 for Haitians and 420 for Dominicans. These numbers represent the total amount of at-sea interdictions, landings and disruptions in the Florida Straits, the Caribbean and Atlantic.

Capt Fedor added, “We know of those we rescue and those who may make it to land, but we don’t know how many hundreds of people may perish attempting this dangerous journey. The Coast Guard is a military service and a law enforcement agency, but we also have a humanitarian role; we are committed to protecting the safety of life at sea.”

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