The Coast Guard foundin its search for dozens of migrants lost at sea off the coast of Florida, officials said Thursday. The development brought the death toll to five after a suspected human smuggling boat in a storm last weekend and left a single known survivor.
Captain Jo-Ann F. Burdian said Thursday the maritime security agency called off its active search for survivors at sunset. Authorities had stressed the difficulty of finding survivors in the turbulent waters of the Gulf Stream.
“We don’t think it is likely that anyone else has survived,” Burdian said at a news conference.
Burdian said Wednesday the survivor told rescuers that the boat capsized Saturday evening shortly after sailing from the Bahamas into a storm. The Coast Guard was alerted Tuesday morning after the crew of a merchant vessel spotted the man sitting alone on the overturned hull of the 25-foot boat. He was taken to a hospital with symptoms of dehydration and sun exposure and turned over to Homeland Security officials.
Crews have been searching around the clock, extrapolating from where the wreck was spotted about 40 miles off Fort Pierce.
Homeland Security Investigations launched a criminal investigation into the incident, said Anthony Salisbury, special agent in charge of agency’s Miami office. The effort includes U.S. agents in the Bahamas.
Agents have interviewed the survivor, but Salisbury would not identify the man or his nationality, nor reveal the nationalities of any others believed to have been on the vessel.
The rescued man told the Coast Guard he was part of a group of 40 people who left Bimini in the Bahamas, Burdian said. The man said the boat capsized shortly thereafter, and no one aboard was wearing a life jacket, she added.
A small craft advisory had been issued as a severe cold front blew through the dangerous passage on Saturday and Sunday, with winds up to 23 mph and swells up to 9 feet.