FORT PIERCE, Fla. – The U.S. Coast Guard has recovered one body and is searching for 38 other people after a boat reportedly capsized over the weekend, authorities confirmed at a news conference on Wednesday.
The body was recovered overnight and was brought to shore Wednesday morning, Coast Guard officials said, adding that search conditions for Wednesday were very good.
According to officials, a Good Samaritan rescued a man Tuesday morning who was clinging to the 25-foot capsized boat about 45 miles east of Fort Pierce Inlet.
The man said he had left Bimini in The Bahamas with 39 other people Saturday night, but they encountered bad weather, causing their boat to capsize the next day.
He said no one was wearing a life jacket.
“Without life jackets, anyone is disadvantaged to survive in the water. Life jackets save lives, no matter the circumstance,” said Capt. Jo-Ann Burdian, Coast Guard Sector Miami commander.
Coast Guard officials said they believe the incident was a human smuggling venture.
“This event occurred in a normal route for human smuggling from the Bahamas into the southeast U.S.,” Burdian said.
According to Coast Guard officials, the lone survivor was taken to a local hospital to be treated for dehydration and sun exposure.
Coast Guard cutter crews and aircraft began searching for the victims around 8:20 a.m. Tuesday and have searched more than 7,500 square miles, about the size of Rhode Island.
WATCH: U.S. Coast Guard provides update on search for migrants missing at sea:
“We understand these countries have various political and economic challenges, but choosing to illegally and unsafely migrate to the United States is not the best option,” said Capt. Benjamin Golightly, U.S. Coast Guard Dist. 7.
Coast Guard officials said the lone survivor is in stable condition.
Officials said although the migrants left from Bimini, their nationalities have not yet been verified.
While the Coast Guard remains committed to finding any survivors, they realize time is not on their side.
“It is dire,” Burdian said. “The longer they remain in the water without food, without water, exposed to the marine environment, the sun, the sea conditions, it is -- every moment that passes, it becomes much more dire and unlikely that anyone could survive in those conditions.”
The Coast Guard urges anyone who believes they had a family member on board the boat to call their Sector Miami station at 305-535-4300.
Map of the search area
Related social media
#UPDATE @USCG crews are still searching. The good Sam notified #USCG Sector #Miami watchstanders, Tuesday, at approx. 8 a.m. after rescuing a man on a capsized vessel. Multiple cutters & aircraft are searching from #Bimini, #Bahamas to #FortPierce Inlet.— USCGSoutheast (@USCGSoutheast) January 25, 2022
More updates follow. pic.twitter.com/kCVQ4LCaTe