2 Cuban migrants drown
Two Cuban women drowned in an alleged smuggling attempt off Key West as a Coast Guard crew was attempting a rescue.
The Associated Press
Two Cuban women died when they were trapped underneath a boat that capsized during a suspected migrant smuggling operation in the Florida Straits, the U.S. Coast Guard said Sunday.
The 28-foot, center-console speedboat with 37 people aboard was taking on water in four- to six-foot seas Saturday when a Coast Guard cutter found it, Petty Officer Dana Warr said.
A rescue boat was launched and crew members gave life jackets to everyone aboard, Warr said. The crew removed 15 people from the boat and transferred them to the cutter on the scene, about 65 miles south of Key West.
As the rescue crew returned to the boat, it capsized under a wave and dumped 22 people into the water.
All but two people were rescued, and the bodies of two women wearing life jackets were found early Sunday under the boat, the Coast Guard said. The women were identified by relatives in the group, but their names were not released.
‘‘There were 37 people on a 28-foot boat, and it was grossly overloaded, probably beyond the specifications of that boat,’’ Warr said.
The 35 Cubans and the two bodies have been transferred to a Coast Guard cutter. The bodies were being taken to the Monroe County medical examiner in Key West, Warr said.
One suspected smuggler was among the group on the cutter, Warr said. The group will be interviewed by U.S. officials to determine their status.
Under U.S. policy, Cuban migrants intercepted at sea are usually returned to Cuba, though some are also taken to the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay for possible resettlement in a third country. Those who reach U.S. soil are generally allowed to stay.
This weekend’s incident is the second in less than a month where a Cuban migrant died at sea.
On Wednesday, two men pleaded guilty to organizing a smuggling trip that resulted in the death of a 6-year-old boy. In that case, a speedboat loaded with 31 people capsized as it fled the Coast Guard, but only the boy died.
Alexander Gil Rodriguez, 25, and Luis Manuel Taboada Cabrera, 28, Cuban nationals who had immigrated to Miami, will face a maximum sentence of 10 years and a $250,000 fine at a Jan. 24 hearing.
And on Saturday, the bodies of three women washed ashore on Pompano Beach, possibly victims of a Haitian migrant-smuggling operation.
Shortly before the bodies were discovered, a Broward Sheriff’s deputy spotted about a dozen migrants running from the water. Five were later caught. Eight others were reported to have escaped.