The Coast Guard said it heard just before noon that the crew of a Customs and Border Protection aircraft spotted the boat and people in the water about 10 nautical miles north of Desecheo Island.
The ship is “suspected to have participated in an illegal voyage,” the Coast Guard said in a press release. Jeffrey Quiñones, a regional spokesman for Customs and Border Protection, said the boat departed from the Dominican Republic, but added that only two survivors are from that Caribbean nation. Those rescued include eight Haitians who were taken to a hospital in Aguadilla, a city in northwestern Puerto Rico, he said.
Thirty-one survivors — 11 women and 20 men — were taken to Crash Boat Beach in Aguadilla, Quiñones said.
Betsy Rivera, spokeswoman for the Puerto Rico Institute for Forensic Sciences, said the agency received 13 bodies as a result of the marine accident. They do not yet have any identities or nationalities for the deceased. Autopsies will take place on Friday and they hope to extract DNA to identify the dead.
The institute has been in contact with the Dominican Human Rights Committee, an organization they normally contact in such incidents, to help identify family members on the neighboring island.
A growing number of migrants have made similar treacherous journeys by sea, fleeing countries where the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated long-standing problems of poverty and violence.
According to the US Coast Guard, in the year ended September 30, 2021, 1,527 Haitians, 742 Dominicans and 838 Cubans making “illegal travel” were intercepted in Florida and the Caribbean.
In Puerto Rico and the Mona Passage that separates it from the Dominican Republic, 53 voyages were intercepted by the Coast Guard and its partner agencies between October 1, 2021 and March 31, 2022. About 1,308 migrants – including 940 Dominicans and 298 Haitians – were arrested, the Coast Guard said.
Castrodad said the type of vessel that capsized on Thursday is known as the “Yola” – a boat of “poor design that always takes on water, is not seaworthy and is designed to try and take these people in an attempt.” easy to bring over”.
The boats can be difficult to spot, he said, so it was fortunate that Customs and Border Protection crews spotted the emergency.