30 miles northeast of Caibarien, Cuba near Miami, Florida, crews with the United States Coast Guard Southeast spotted a suspicious ship headed toward the U.S coast last week — and ultimately made the decision to intercept.
Coast Guard Cutters Tampa and Vigilant pulled up on the 80-foot ship, found to be stuffed with more than 300 passengers. They ultimately stopped its attempt to illegally land in the United States on Wednesday, February 15.
An Air Station Clearwater C-130 airplane crew with the Coast Guard spotted the vessel at approximately 1:30 pm, alerting the nearest commissioned vessels. In addition to Cutters Tampa and Vigilant, Cutter Isaac Mayo also responded to the scene, assisting in the rescue of the 311 men, women, and children from the unsafe ship.
Video footage of the interception, captured by Lieutenant Alex Cordes, Cutter Isaac Mayo, and the on scene MH-60 Jawhawk helicopter crew, was posted to Facebook on February 20 at 4:17 pm. It shows an aerial thermal view of what appears to be U.S. ships floating aside the illegal vessel before cutting to view from the water.
Crew members can be seen handing bright orange life jackets to Haitians reaching over the edge of their ship, the sound of lapping waves and a frenzy of chatter clashes in the background.
The video then flashes forward to two Coast Guards assisting the passengers onto the smaller cutter vessels one by one. A few of the rescued Haitians already helped onto the cutter can be seen sitting in the foreground.
As stated in a press release from The United States Coast Guard, the vessel sank with no pollution concerns. Once aboard a Coast Guard cutter, all of the migrants receive food, water, shelter and basic medical attention. The people aboard were reported to be in good condition.
According to a statement from Lt. Peter Hutchinson from Coast Guard District Seven, the Coast Guard continues to partner with agency crews to patrol the Florida Straits, as well as the Windward and Mona Passages that separate the west coast of Cuba and southeastern coast of Hispaniola.
“Our crews are doing their very best to stop people from illegally entering the U.S. and to discourage people from risking their lives by taking to the sea." Lt. Hutchinson said.
The 311 Haitians were repatriated on Monday, February 20. Since October 1 of 2022, Coast Guard crews have returned a total of 3,117 Haitian migrants to their country compared to: