Saturday, May 05, 2007
A Miami medical examiner and three British maritime accident experts were rushing to Turks and Caicos late Friday to help investigate the sinking of a Haitian boat in shark-filled waters that killed at least 36 people and left more than 30 others lost at sea. The 30-foot sailboat, overloaded with at least 150 Haitians, capsized early Friday as it was being towed by Turks and Caicos police to a harbor. Some 78 Haitians were rescued. Some of the 36 recovered bodies appeared to have been chewed up by sharks. More than 30 others were unaccounted for as of Friday night. The medical examiner was headed to the British islands north of Haiti to conduct autopsies and help identify bodies, a local government statement said.
A Turks and Caicos police tugboat pulls a capsized migrants boat during rescue operations.The government said Turks and Caicos police intercepted the vessel near Providenciales, and it was taken under police tow toward the island. "On the way they encountered rough seas, and the heavily overloaded sloop capsized," the government said. The U.S. Coast Guard was called in for assistance. Speaking through an interpreter, one survivor said the migrants were headed from Cap-Haitien to the Turks and Caicos when the boat was rocked by choppy waters. Some passengers panicked as lightning crackled and caused the vessel to capsize, said Wilke Pierre, 52. "I lost one of my two daughters that made the trip with me," he said. It could become the worst disaster in years to hit Haitian migrants. The survivors were taken to a detention center on Providenciales, which has a sizable community of illegal Haitian immigrants, and were to be sent back to Haiti.