Coast Guard Searches For Migrant Vessel Missing Off Keys
Homemade Boat Was Carrying 15 Migrants
POSTED: 10:46 am EST January 27, 2006
MIAMI -- Authorities on Thursday searched for a homemade boat carrying 15
migrants that disappeared Wednesday night amid fog and ocean swells off the
A Customs and Border Patrol Black Hawk helicopter on a routine flyover
spotted the rustic wooden craft shortly before dusk Wednesday about 46 miles
off the coast. The small vessel had no engine and appeared to be taking on
water, said Customs Spokesman Zachary Mann.
Mann said the Black Hawk crew was forced to return to its base in Homestead
around 7 p.m. due to poor weather. When another aircraft from Jacksonville
arrived shortly afterward, it could no longer find the roughly 15-foot boat.
"These people weren't trying to get away. They were just drifting in the
water," Mann said. "You have a situation where you are 46 miles off shore.
The sun goes down, there's no light. Something that small can be easily lost
when there's no marker on it."
Mann identified the missing people as Cuban in a press release but later
said he could not confirm the nationality.
"The likelihood that they are Cuban is great because they're in the Florida
straights between Florida and Cuba," he said.
Customs and the Coast Guard officials continued the search throughout the
night to no avail and returned Thursday, searching more than 1,400 square
miles, Mann said. He said it was unclear whether the group could have
survived overnight on the open sea amid roughly 4-foot swells. Overnight
temperatures in the area were in the high 60s for the air and low 70s for
the water, according to the National Weather Service.
"It's extremely unfortunate, and an extremely sad situation for anyone
associated -- the rescuers and family and friends," Mann said. "This goes to
show the dangers associated with attempting to enter the country illegally
and taking your life into your hands in this dangerous matter. Our thoughts
and prayers are with them and their families."
Coast Guard Lt. Commander Chris O'Neil said searchers had not found any
debris indicating that the vessel sank, and no decision had been taken as to
how long to continue the search.
"We keep searching until we're confident that we would have found what we
were looking for within the search area if it were there," he said.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press