Coast Guard rescues 12 Venezuelan migrants from a disabled 18-foot skiff

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Coast Guard surface and air units combined efforts to locate and rescue 12 migrants from a disabled 18-foot skiff in waters southeast of St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.

The rescued migrants reportedly were traveling with two other migrant vessels, when their vessel became disabled and separated from the group.

“Thanks to the quick response and great coordination between fellow partner agencies, our watchstanders and Coast Guard responding units, all 12 lives were saved in this case,” said Chief Petty Officer Luis Cabrera, Boat Forces Detachment St. Thomas chief supervisor. “Despite the successful rescue, we cannot lose sight of the dangers associated with illegal migrant voyages. These voyages most often take place aboard grossly overloaded vessels with little or no lifesaving equipment.  For anyone considering taking part in an illegal voyage, don’t take to the sea! The risk is just not worth it and not doing so could just save your life.”

Coast Guard watchstanders in Sector San Juan received a call at 4:53 a.m. Thursday from a 911 Emergency Service operator, who relayed a report from local police that multiple agencies had apprehended 30 migrants, mostly Venezuelan nationals, from two vessels that made landfall at Bolongo Bay in St. Thomas.  The apprehended migrants reported there was a third migrant vessel disabled and adrift, approximately 20 miles southeast of St. Thomas.

Coast Guard watchstanders directed the launch of a MH-60T Jayhawk helicopter from Air Station Borinquen and two 33-foot Special Purpose Craft – Law Enforcement from Boat Forces Detachment St. Thomas to search for and rescue any survivors.  Approximately four hours later, the crew of the Coast Guard helicopter located the disabled vessel with the migrants safely onboard and vectored-in the Coast Guard boat crews to their position.  The migrant survivors, 10 men and two women, were safely embarked aboard the Coast Guard vessel and transported to St. Thomas.