Searchers Find More Bodies of Migrants

5 bodies have been found off Florida coast after apparent human smuggling boat capsizes
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 27, 2022 3:34 PM CST
Coast Guard Nears End of Search for Migrants
Crew members of the Coast Guard cutter William Flores get ready to go on patrol Wednesday in Miami Beach.   (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)

The Coast Guard said Thursday that it had found four additional bodies in its search for dozens of migrants lost at sea off Florida but would suspend its rescue operations at sunset if it doesn’t receive any new information. Homeland Security Investigations officials said they were actively investigating the case as a human smuggling operation, the AP reports. Authorities have now found a total of five bodies, leaving 34 missing five days after the vessel capsized on the way to Florida from Bimini, a chain of islands in the Bahamas about 55 miles east of Miami.

Coast Guard Capt. Jo-Ann F. Burdian said the decision to suspend the search at sunset Thursday, pending any new discoveries, was not an easy one. "We have saturated the area over and over again," she told a news conference, adding, "We don’t think it’s likely that anyone else has survived." The Miami office of Homeland Security Investigations said the migrants' journey was most certainly part of a human smuggling operation. Under federal law, a smuggler convicted of causing a death is eligible for execution.

Special Agent in Charge Anthony declined to give any information on the nationalities of the boat passengers but said investigators consider the lone survivor "a victim right now," not a suspect. Salisbury appealed to the public for tips to help identify who organized the boat crossing. The survivor was found hanging onto the 25-foot vessel about 40 miles off Fort Pierce, Florida. He told a good Samaritan and authorities that the boat capsized late Saturday after he and 39 others had set out for Florida from Bimini. Authorities said the boat was found about 100 miles north of where it capsized, apparently pushed by the Gulf Stream. No one was wearing a life jacket, the rescued man told authorities.

(Read more Coast Guard rescue stories.)

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