Investigation into sea tragedy off West End coast ongoing

INVESTIGATION CONTINUES – Law enforcement agents are continuing their investigations into what they believe is an alleged smuggling attempt by illegal immigrants on Friday, June 11. Ten persons were on a vessel that capsized off the coast of West End, unfortunately two – an adult female and juvenile male – drowned during the incident. (PHOTOS: JAIMIE SMITH)

Local law enforcement agents mounted an intense investigation over the weekend, following the drowning death of two illegal immigrants and the rescue of eight survivors. 

On Friday (June 11) the survivors, including a baby boy, were brought to shore at the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) Marine Base shortly after 12 noon.

The bodies of the deceased - an adult female and juvenile male - were also onboard.

When the team from this daily arrived at the Marine Division Headquarters sometime around 12:15 p.m., the RBPF vessel with its passengers was approaching the dock.

Heart wrenching screams of a female survivor could be heard.

The woman is believed to be the mother of a juvenile male, who lost his life.

 According to police information, 10 persons were onboard a vessel which capsized off of the coast of West End.

Upon arrival, the survivors were seen seated at the stern of the vessel while the bodies of the deceased were placed at the bow.

While there were four male and four female survivors, the youngest being, a male baby, who was heard periodically crying as one of female survivors clenched him tightly, sobbing, and at times crying loudly while speaking in a foreign language, believed to be Creole.

Shortly after the vessel docked, a hearse, Emergency Medical Services and personnel from the Grand Bahama Health Services Surveillance Unit arrived on scene.

Press Liaison Officer of the RBPF Assistant Superintendent Stephen Rolle said that while police officers are still in their preliminary stages of their investigation, it appeared the passengers onboard the capsized vessel were attempting to illegally enter the United States.

“Shortly before 9:00 a.m. this morning, the police control room received a report from BASRA (Bahamas Air Sea and Rescue Association) of a capsized boat some seven miles off of Memory Rock (off the coast of West End). As a result, the Police Marine Section along with the Customs Marine Section went into that area and conducted some investigations. Upon their arrival, they met a capsized vessel and eight persons hanging on, who appeared to be dehydrated. They were rescued by the officers. 

“Upon further checks of the vessel, the officers discovered two persons submerged in the vessel, underwater. They were an adult female and a male child. At that time, they both appeared to be lifeless. The officers would have later transported the illegal immigrants along with the two deceased persons to land, where they were met by a local doctor. He pronounced both individuals lifeless.

“A young baby was one of the persons rescued in this latest incident. At this point, the local doctor is still treating them. I am unable to say, at this point, the exact extent of their injuries,” stated ASP Rolle.

The Police and Immigration Departments will be handling this investigation.

“For the most part, the United States Coast Guards normally assists with this type of mission and they were a part of this operation this morning. Their air surveillance services were used, whereby they communicated with police officers on the ground and they were able to find the capsized vessel.”

“For persons considering such a treacherous and life threatening journey, I want to urge persons of all nationalities who tend to take this venture, perhaps to be smuggled into the United States, perhaps for a better way of life; I would like to say to them, it is a very dangerous journey. Think twice before deciding to make such a trip with anyone, to get into America. As we see here today, it can result in death.

“It is unclear at this time where the group was coming from, but in all indications it appears as if they were trying to be smuggled into the United States.”

He added that the capsized vessel was at least a 20 footer with two attached outboard engines.

“We can say that there was a boat captain, but at present we cannot say if he was on board at the time of the incident. The police are conducting our investigation and once we determine that information we will come back to the media and advise you accordingly,” said ASP Rolle.

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