198 migrants repatriated to Haiti after being spotted off Key Largo

KEY LARGO, Fla. – The U.S. Coast Guard repatriated 198 migrants to Haiti on Thursday, days after they were spotted on a boat off Key Largo.

According to Coast Guard officials, a good Samaritan notified the Coast Guard around 1 p.m. last Sunday after spotting more than 300 migrants on a boat near the Ocean Reef community.

Officials with the Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and partner agencies rescued a total of 356 Haitians from the boat about 200 yards off Ocean Reef.

“The Coast Guard maintains a strong relationship with our partner agencies and Haitian authorities, allowing us to work together to protect lives at sea,” said Capt. Adam Chamie, Commander of Sector Key West. “These grossly overloaded vessels operate without proper safety equipment and are not built for these hazardous voyages which can lead to casualties.”

The boat was said to be in such poor condition it was later seen listing to one side.

“The vessel was starting to break apart with potential concerns of capsizing,” said Adam Hoffner, of U.S. Border Patrol.

Coast Guard crews and rescue workers responded quickly to help out the migrants, which included women and children.

“All of their lives were at risk during the journey,” Hoffner said.

Hoffner confirmed that 158 migrants had tried swimming to shore and were detained.

This isn’t the first time this has happened near Ocean Reef.

In January, close to 100 people from Haiti made landfall nearby.

It’s unclear when the rest of the migrants will be sent back to Haiti.

About the Author:

Amanda Batchelor is the Digital Executive Producer for Local10.com.