The Miami Herald
Wed, Jul. 14, 2004

1 dead, 17 missing after boat carrying Dominicans capsizes

After a boat carrying Dominican migrants overturns, the U.S. Coast Guard reported that one person died, 14 survived and about 17 were missing.

Associated Press

SAN JUAN - More than 24 hours after a boat packed with Dominican migrants capsized in the treacherous Mona Passage, rescue teams on Tuesday found a woman clinging to a life vest miles away from where the vessel overturned.

The woman was spotted by a Coast Guard helicopter late Tuesday afternoon in the Mona Passage, which runs between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Earlier in the day, rescue teams found a male survivor on the Puerto Rican island of Desecheo.

The female survivor was airlifted to a nearby Coast Guard cutter, where she joined a dozen others who were found grasping the hull of the boat, which overturned Monday night. The woman, who was not identified, is in stable condition, said Coast Guard spokesman Eric Willis.

Rescued passengers who were aboard the 29-foot fishing vessel told Coast Guard authorities that there were about 32 migrants aboard, Willis said.

The boat was headed toward the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico. One body was recovered Tuesday but an estimated 17 are still missing.

The deep and narrow Mona Passage is known for fast currents and high winds.

Twenty-nine migrants were intercepted in the Mona Passage on July 8, Willis said, and 94 had been in a boat that capsized in the passage a month earlier. Three reportedly drowned.

Forty-two migrants are known to have died in the Mona Passage since Oct. 1, 2003, the Coast Guard said.

The U.S. State Department launched a media campaign in the Dominican Republic this year to warn potential migrants against making the risky voyage.

Faced with rising unemployment, inflation and constant blackouts, thousands of Dominicans make the journey to U.S. shores each year.

The Coast Guard cutter that helped in the rescue was on its way to the Dominican Republic to deliver 34,000 pounds of food and clothing a church group collected in Puerto Rico. The donations were meant for flood victims. Floods in late May killed about 3,000 people in the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

More than 5,000 migrants have been repatriated after being found in Dominican boats in Puerto Rican waters in the past eight months, according to the Coast Guard.