At least people 10 dead, 17 rescued after overloaded boat sinks off Florida
MIAMI BEACH - At least 10 people are dead after an overloaded boat apparently carrying Haitian migrants sank off the Florida coast, the Coast Guard said yesterday.
Coast Guard Captain James Fitton said 17 people had been rescued, but a search was underway and was expected to last through the night.
Authorities weren't sure how many were aboard the boat, but they believed around 30 fell into the sea.
The sinking fits the profile of migrant smuggling, officials said, but they were not sure if the boat capsized or crashed into something. The boat had not been found, and was thought to have sunk since it had not been spotted from the air.
"The boat was obviously overloaded," Fitton said. "It's a tragedy that someone would be so callous with human life."
The boat apparently left Bimini in the Bahamas on Tuesday night. It was believed to have capsized at about 2 a.m. but officials didn't learn about it until another boater called more than 10 hours later. The boater reported pulling three people from the water and said about 25 others were awaiting rescue.
Fitton said all those rescued were expected to recover. Children and women were among those aboard, including a pregnant woman.
Two helicopters, a jet, and three boats were helping in the rescue effort about 15 miles off the shore of Miami Beach where water temperatures by the afternoon were in the high 70s.
The Coast Guard said that since October it had stopped 1,377 Haitians, up from 972 during the same seven-month period last year.
The Rev. Luke Harrigan, a Fort Lauderdale pastor who ministers to the Haitian-American community, was working with the Coast Guard to help the victims.
He said Haitians, who live in the Western Hemisphere's poorest nation, are known to pay $2,000 to $4,000 to be smuggled into the United States.
Four tropical storms and hurricanes battered the country during last year's harvest season, killing 793 people, crippling agriculture and causing $1 billion in damage to irrigation, bridges and roads.