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Coast Guard Rescues 38 Survivors From Capsized Vessel in the Mona Passage

SAN JUAN — The Coast Guard suspended at 10 p.m. Sunday the four-day search for additional survivors of a capsized vessel in Mona Passage waters between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

Rescued are 38 survivors, 36 Haitian and two Dominican Republic nationals. Rescue crews also recovered 11 people deceased, whose nationalities are yet to be determined.

“Our most heartfelt condolences to the families, friends and loved ones of those who did not survive or remain missing, our prayers are with them,” said Capt. Gregory H. Magee, Commander of Coast Guard Sector San Juan.  “I commend all the partner agency crews who responded in this case, their bravery and actions helped save 38 lives from almost certain death, as well as, the air, surface and land-based crews involved in the search.  These crews have done their utmost to ensure that if there were anymore survivors, that they would have had the best chance to be rescued. 

“Unfortunately, as the threat of illegal voyages continues, we could be forced to respond to similar events in the future. The dangers of these voyages are real, we see them everyday, people aboard grossly overloaded makeshift boats taking on water in high seas with little or no lifesaving equipment.  These people are at the mercy of ruthless smugglers who are not concerned with their lives or safety. To anyone thinking of taking part of an illegal voyage, don’t take to the sea! It could just save your life.”

Coast Guard watchstanders in Sector San Juan received a communication at approximately 11:47 a.m. Thursday reporting that the aircrew of a Custom and Border Protection aircraft had sighted a capsized vessel with people in the water who did not appear to be wearing life jackets.

Coast Guard watchstanders directed the launch of an MH-60T helicopter from Air Station Borinquen and diverted the Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Tezanos, while Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine and Puerto Rico Police Joint Forces of Rapid Action marine units also responded to rescue survivors.

Rescue crews involved in the search conducted 20 air and 10 surface searches, covering over 5,194 square nautical miles, an area larger than Puerto Rico.  

Rescue assets involved in the search:

  • Coast Guard Cutter Donald Horsley
  • Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Tezanos
  • HC-130 Hercules from Air Station Clearwater
  • C-27J Spartan from Air Station Sacramento
  • Air Station Borinquen MH-60T Jayhawk helicopters
  • Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations assets
  • Puerto Rico Police Joint Forces of Rapid Action marine units

By John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.