CHRISTMAS DAY TRAGEDY: Eighteen Haitian migrants died Wednesday when their overloaded sailboat overturned as it was being escorted ashore in the Turks and Caicos Islands, officials said.
The sailboat, which had about 50 people on board, abruptly capsized about 150 yards from the island of Providenciales, said Neil Smith, a spokesman for the government. The cause was not immediately known but overloading was a likely factor, he said.
About two hours earlier, in the pre-dawn hours of Christmas, the marine branch of the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force had intercepted the sloop as a suspected migrant vessel and was escorting it to shore, Smith said.
Police recovered 18 bodies and are continuing to search for more with the assistance of divers and a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter.
Authorities rescued 32 people from the water and they are in custody on suspicion of attempting to illegally enter the territory. They were in custody in Providenciales, the territory’s most populated island.