Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Federal prosecutors have charged one of the survivors they plucked from the water last week with operating the smuggling boat that sank about 15 miles off Palm Beach County. He is 33-year-old Jimmy Metellus, a lawful, permanent U.S. resident of Haitian descent. Metellus is now charged with alien smuggling resulting in the death of another person - in this case, nine people. Prosecutors say one of the sixteen survivors identified Metellus as the operator of the boat that went down. According to the criminal complaint, it was, it appears, an ill-fated crossing from the start. The survivor told U.S. officials that their boat first ran out of gas - leaving them drifting for two or three days.A small plane spotted them, and a short time later a boat delivered fuel. They went back to the Bahamas, all spending the night at the home of a man identified only as "Shine", and then left the Bahamas again the next morning. Metellus, they say, agreed to run the boat instead of paying "Shine" about $4,000 to make the illegal trip as the others aboard had. Prosecutors say Metellus told them he had lost his proof of U.S. residency in a hurricane in Haiti, and felt this was his only way to get back to Florida. Metellus was in federal court to face these charges, but the judge wanted a Creole interpreter on-hand to eliminate any potential language barrier. He's being held without bond, and is scheduled to be back in court Wednesday.