Posted on Thu, Jan. 26, 2006
BY OSCAR CORRAL
A boat with about 15 Cuban migrants has gone missing in the waters near the Florida Keys, and the U.S. Coast Guard has launched a search, the Coast Guard said Thursday.
The 15- to 20-foot long rustic vessel, filled with people, was spotted by a Customs and Border Protection Blackhawk helicopter about 46 miles southeast of Marathon Wednesday evening. But the helicopter lost track of it at 7 p.m. after poor visibility and bad weather forced the helicopter to return to base.
Shortly after, Coast Guard vessels and a CBP ‘‘High Endurance Tracker’’ airplane arrived on the scene, but did not locate the boat.
‘‘The CBP Blackhawk crew reported the wooden vessel had no engine,’’ the Coast Guard said in a statement Thursday. ``The sea-state at the time was 4-6 foot seas and getting worse. It was also reported all people on the vessel appeared to be wearing life jackets.’‘
The search continued through the night. At dawn, a Coast Guard Falcon jet from Air Station Miami, a Coast Guard Jayhawk helicopter and a Coast Guard C-130 Hercules aircraft from Air Station Clearwater, Fla., were launched to help in the search. The Coast Guard said it has searched 1,400 square miles in the Florida Straits.
Anyone with information on the migrants can call the Seventh District Command Center at (305) 415-6800.
The all-out search comes at a time when the number of Cuban migrants picked up at sea has hit a 10-year high, and tempers are still flaring in Miami over the Coast Guard’s repatriation earlier this month of 15 Cuban migrants found standing on a piling of the old Seven Mile Bridge in the Florida Keys.
2006 MiamiHerald.com and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.