30 migrants killed, 110 rescued when boat capsizes

Boat capsized in waters off Bahamas

STANIEL CAY, Bahamas – Thirty Haitian migrants died and 110 more were rescued when an overloaded boat capsized in the waters off the Bahamas, the Coast Guard said Tuesday.

Coast Guard officials said the overloaded sail freighter capsized about 15 miles southwest of Staniel Cay about 5:30 p.m. Monday. Staniel Cay is southeast of Nassau.

When rescue crews arrived, migrants were clinging to the hull of the 40-foot sail freighter.

"When we got on scene, we saw a vessel that was aground, exposed about a third above the waterline," said Lt. Steve Simpson.

A Coast Guard helicopter crew hoisted 13 people from the water. Other air crews dropped food, supplies, and life rafts from the air.

"We were able to drop two life rafts that can hold 16 people total and a survival kit as well as a data marker buoy to track the drift," said Lt. Morgan Roy.

"We had quite constant coverage over the vessel at night to reassure everybody on the ground [that] they knew we were there and that help was coming in the morning," added Simpson.

|Video: Pilots talk about the rescue|

The Royal Bahamian Defense Force launched a 108-foot patrol boat that picked up 91 survivors who will be taken to New Providence in Nassau, said Lt. Commander Whitfield Neely. Six other survivors were taken to Georgetown and the remaining 13 to Staniel Cay.

Neely said some of the survivors suffered dehydration and others had abrasions from exposure to the elements. He added that only six bodies have been found while the Coast Guard reported seeing 30 bodies.

"We encourage people, especially here in the United States, if you've got loved ones who are considering getting on one of these boats that are all too often grossly overloaded with hundreds of people aboard, tell them don't do it," said Chief Petty Officer Ryan Doss.

"Enough is enough. We are tired of seeing such massive loss of life," said Marleine Bastien, executive director of Haitian Women of Miami.

In August, Judith Valentin's body washed ashore in Palm Beach. While her mother speculated that she was raped and thrown overboard, authorities concluded she accidentally drowned.

In October, a boat carrying a group of Caribbean national capsized, killing four women. Six other Jamaican and Bahamian survivors each face a federal charge of attempting to re-enter the U.S. after being deported. One also faces an attempted smuggling charge.

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